This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Category: God’s sovereignty

David’s Digest: Of Christian Patience

James 5:7 - "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."

What does godly patience look like?

In Puritan Thomas Manton’s work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James”, he examines this closer in looking at the beginning of the above verse.

You can listen to all of verse 15 here:

or download it:

Download

The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=405, and this section starts on PDF page 405 (in the print, page 3860), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:

Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 7. — Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord: behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain.

He now diverts from the rich oppressors, unto the poor faithful brethren that were oppressed. By the illative particle “therefore” we may see the former paragraph was for their sakes. The rich men shall be punished for their wickedness and oppression ; therefore, be you patient.

Be patient, therefore, brethren, [Greek word]. The word is put for long-suffering, and so usually translated, which is a further degree of patience; for patience is a sense of afflictions without murmuring, and of injuries without revenge. Now, long-suffering is patience extended, and lengthened out to that which our apostle calls its perfect work. Observe:

Obs. It is the duty of the children of God to be patient under their sufferings, though they be long and sharp. It is easier in a calm and sedate condition to discourse of patience, than to exercise it in time of trial. Philosophers have discoursed of it, and commended it ; but Christians themselves have staggered, when they have been exercised with a sharp sense of evils.

When God gives up his people to the lust [generally, any corrupt desire of the heart] of adversaries, then it is sad, and we are apt to murmur; and yet the apostle says, we should suffer with a long patience. I shall spare motives, and a little show you what Christian patience is.

It differs from security and stoical insensibleness [just ignoring it, burying the emotions, etc.]; there can be no patience where there is no sense of evil [of our own sin, temptations to sin under difficulties, etc.]. Christianity does not abrogate affections, but regulate them. Carnal men put off [for later] that which they cannot put away, and are not patient but stupid [like being in a stupor] and careless. There are other remedies in Christianity than quenching our sorrows in the wine [literal and metaphorical] of pleasures.

Again, it differs from moral patience, which is nothing but a yielding to necessity [they go with it because they cannot do anything about it], and is usually accompanied with vain [useless] thoughts (Jer. iv. 14), and carnal workings of spirit. When God lays on crosses, men please themselves with suppositions of worldly profit, and how their present condition may conduce to secular advancement; as when God takes away wife or children, men do not think of submission to the hand of God, but the capacity of augmenting their worldly estate, &c.

In short. Christian patience supposes a sense of evil, and then in the formality of it, it is a submission of the whole soul to the will of God. Wherein observe,

(1.) The nature; it is a submission of the whole soul. The judgment subscribes, “Good is the word of the Lord,” &c. (Isa. xxxix. 9.) Though it were to him a terrible word, yet the submission of a sanctified judgment can call it good. Then the will accepts, “If they shall accept the punishment” (Lev. xxvi. 4) ; that is, take it kindly from God that it is no worse. Then the affections are restrained, and anger and sorrow brought under the commands of the word. Then the tongue is bridled, lest discontent plash [splash] over; Aaron held his peace, (Lev. x. 3).

(2.) Consider the grounds and proper considerations upon which all this is carried on. Usually there is such a progress as this in the spiritual discourse:

(1st.) The soul sees God in it : “I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it” (Psa. xxxix. 9).

(2nd.) It sees God acting with sovereignty : “None can say unto him; What dost thou?” (Job. ix. 12.) And elsewhere, “He giveth no account of his matters.”

(3rd.) Lest this should make the heart storm [with fury], it sees sovereignty modified and mitigated in the dispensation of it with several attributes:

  • With justice:

    (Deut. xxvii. 26), When every curse was pronounced, they were to say Amen that if it come to pass ; Amen is but a righteous dispensation.

  • With mercy:

    “Thou hast punished us less than we deserved” (Esra. ix. 13). They were afflicted, they might have been destroyed; they were in Babylon, they might have been in hell.

  • With faithfulness:

    They look upon afflictions as federal dispensations, as appendages of the covenant of grace; “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might keep thy statutes” (Psa. cxix. 71). When they are threshed, it is but to lose their stalks and husks ; God’s faithfulness would not suffer [allow] them to want [want] such a sweet help.

  • With wisdom:

    God is a God of judgment (Isa, xxx. 18) ; it is meant in his dispensations. Let God alone, he is too just to do us wrong, and too kind and wise to do us harm.

May God grant us a desire for this patience, may we seek Him daily for it, and may He graciously grant us it so we can live properly as unto Him!

— David

David’s Digest: What Does It Mean to Submit All Our Actions to God’s Will?

James 4:15 – “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

At what depth should our wills in the actions of our lives be submitted to our God if we claim Him to be so? What does it mean to truly submit our lives in what we do to Him?

Puritan Thomas Manton in his superb work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” takes a deep and detailed look into what it means to submit the actions of our lives to God.

You can listen to all of verse 15 here:

 


or download it:
Download

 

The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=375, and this section starts on PDF page 379 (in the print, page 360), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 15. – For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Observation. All our undertakings must be referred to the will of God; not only sacred, but civil actions. Our journeys must not be undertaken without asking his leave; as Jacob, “O Lord God of Abraham thy servant, send me good speed this day” (Gen. xxviii. 20, and xxiv. 12). No wonder, if this be neglected, that you meet with so many cross accidents; they do not come from your hard luck, but your profane neglect.

But what is it to submit all our actions to the will of God? I answer,

1. To measure all our actions by his revealed will [the Bible], that is the rule of duty. We can look for no blessing but upon those ways that suit with it. There must be a submission to his secret will, but first a conformity to his revealed will. Lust [generally, any corrupt desire of the heart] has its wills (Eph. ii. 2); but we are to serve the will of God till we fall asleep (Acts xiii 36).

2. We must the more comfortably undertake any action, when we see God in it. Acts xvi. 10, he gathered that God had called him to Macedonia: so, when we see God in the sweet means and course of his providence, or by inward instinct guiding and leading us, we may with more encouragement walk in the way that he hath opened to us.

3. When in our desires and requests we do not [try to] bind [constrain] the counsels of God; [we should say] “Not my will, but thine be done” (Matt. xxvi. 39). In temporal things we must submit to God’s will both for the mercy, the means, and time of attainment. Creatures that cannot ascribe to themselves, must not prescribe to God, and give laws to Providence, but must be content to want [lack], or have, as the Lord pleases. If any thing succeed not well, the Lord would not [wills it not to be]; that is enough to silence all discontents [discontentment].

4. We must constantly ask his leave in prayer, as before was urged.

5. We must still reserve the power of God’s providence. If the Lord will. If the Lord permit: God would not have us too carnally confident; it is good to inure the soul to changes. Two things we should often consider to this purpose, and they are both in the text:

(1st.) The sovereignty and dominion of Providence: the Lord can blast your enterprise, though managed with never so much wisdom and contrivance [of our own]; he can nip it in the bud, or check it in the very article of execution: and I have observed, that usually God is very tender of his honour in this point, and usually frustrates proud men that boast of what they will do, and conceive unlimited purposes, without any thought of the check they may receive in Providence.

It is a flower of the imperial crown of heaven, and the bridle that God hath upon the reasonable creature, to dispose of the success of human affairs; therefore herein God will be acknowledged: “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. xvi. 9). Man designs, but the execution depends wholly upon God’s will and providence.

In peremptory resolutions there is a contest between us and Heaven about will and power; therefore, in such cases, the answer of Providence is more express and decisive to the creature’s loss, that God may be acknowledged as Lord of success, and the first mover in all means and causes, without whom they have no force and efficacy.

(2nd.) Consider the frailty and uncertainty of your own lives. Our being is as uncertain as the events of Providence. If we live, and God will, are the exceptions of the text, and do imply that there must be a sensible impression of our own frailty, as well as of the sovereignty of Providence, that the heart may the better submit to God. It is said, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psa. cxlvi. 4).

Frail men are full of thoughts and projects; this they will do, and that they will do; go to such a city, promote their interests by such an alliance, gain so much by such a purchase; and then they will raise up some stately fabric which shall continue their name and memory to succeeding generations, and all this because they do not mind the earth which they carry about them, and how soon the hand of Providence is able to crumble it into dust. Certainly man will never be wise, till he is able to number his days, and does sufficiently possess his soul of the uncertainty of his abode in the world (Psa. xc. 12).

Observation. We shall live, and do this or that. Mark! it is not enough that God suffer [allow] us to live, but he must also by the same will suffer [allow] us to do or act. The point is, that God’s will concurs not only to our lives, but actions. We may live, and yet not be able to do any thing for the promotion of our designs: for, if God suspend his concurrence, the creatures cannot act, at least not with any towardliness and success, which quite crosses the doctrine of the heathen philosophers. Seneca said, “That we live, it is by the benefit of the gods; that we live well, it is of ourselves.” So Tully: “This is the judgment of all men, that prosperity is to be sought of God, but wisdom to be gotten by ourselves.”

But in the Scriptures we are taught otherwise, not only to seek success of God, but direction; he gives abilities to perform, and a blessing when the action is finished.

  • Without the efficacious [effective], as well as permissive will of God, we can do nothing; he must give us life, and all things necessary to action.
  • We must not only look up to him as the author of the success, but the director of the actions.
  • It is by his conduct and blessing that all things come to pass.
  • Our very counsels and wills are subject to the Divine government, and he can turn them as it pleaseth him (Prov. xxi. 1);

and therefore we must not only commit our ways to his providence, but commend our hearts to the tuition of his Spirit. In short, all things are done by bis will, and must be ascribed to his praise.

May God grant that we indeed see our frailty, His greatness, His supremacy in all things, His worthiness to be submitted to, His lovingkindness in His dealings with us, and may He grant that we be full of thankfulness at all times, especially if by His graces and mercies we have the Lord Christ Jesus as our own!

— David

David’s Digest: Doctrines of Grace Decade

Around 10 years ago and a couple of months, Sue and I were attending a post-modern, seeker-sensitive church; and we were both heavily involved. I was at a place in life where to me things weren’t as they seemed. I had been recently then reading a site that talked about secret societies and how the elite rules the world from behind the scenes. As part of that, I was curious as to where we were technology-wise toward things like what I thought would be “the mark of the beast” (which I thought at the time might be chip implants, etc.), and so from that web site I bought some technology tapes which were talks from a fellow named Michael Bunker. I watched the videos, which were quite interesting. On the videos were printed his web site, but for some reason during those couple of months, I never visited the site, even though I did web application development for a living.

Well, one day, in August, 2002, I thought, hey, I should check out this guy’s web site. Looking back, I find it interesting that there was a delay in visiting his site, but now I figure that it just wasn’t time in God’s plan for me to find what I was going to find there…

I started reading his articles, and wow! What was all of this about God’s sovereignty in salvation — election, predestination, etc.? Here are some of the first articles I remember reading: (original links no longer work)

The God of Your Mind
Gospel of Satan
Born Dead

I was blown away. Could this all be true? I think along my “Christian” upbringing I had run across election somewhere, but nothing of substance, and certainly not in the charismatic church I had gone to (that I remember anyway). Reading these and trying to get a mental grip on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and how all of this fit together turned me into a mental zombie for a couple of weeks.

But at the end of that, it was a Sunday night, I believe, where I was reading Romans 9:

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

It MUST be true — God sovereignly decides on whom He will have mercy and on whom He will not, and even those whose hearts He will harden. At that point, I had a decision to make: either believe this to be true, because it’s right there in the Bible, or cut this part out of the Bible because I don’t want to believe it; and if I’m going to do that, I might as well throw out the whole Bible and all of my Christianity, because you can’t just pick and choose from the Bible. The Lord, in His graces and mercies, granted I choose the former and not the latter.

Well, suddenly, my entire religious belief system was 180 degrees from what it was. Once again, things weren’t as I had thought they were.

Sue and I were seriously dating at the time, and she believed as I had believed before this, and so I knew I was eventually going to have to bring this up with her. I figured I would try to study some more; and when I understood things hopefully a little better, I would try to start talking to her about it all. It was only a few days later, after noticing something wasn’t right with me, she asked me what was going on, and not knowing exactly what to do, I said, “Here, read this,” and handed her some of the articles from Mr. Bunker’s site. Interestingly, this sent her also into about a two-week period of the similar mental gyrations I had gone through, probably because we were brought up similarly in religion.

Thankfully, the Lord graciously granted her light as well, and she also began to see that these doctrines must be true.

Today is Sue and my nine year anniversary, and I am so very grateful to the Lord for the gift of the godly woman of Sue that He has granted me. A lot has happened in nine years, as anyone who has read our blog from the beginning can tell; and we are thankful for the Lord’s guiding and growth in Him He has granted. Over the years, I’ve continued to discover that just about every idea I have had about anything has been backwards to the truth. It has been 10 years of we pray being transformed by the renewing our minds, by God’s graces and mercies.

I believe it was after I had read Romans 9 that one night that I compiled a list of questions I had been storing up in hopes of sending them to Mr. Bunker that he might hopefully answer them. I recently went back to look at them, and lo and behold, I had sent them to him exactly one year before the day Sue and I got married! I found that quite interesting. Mr. Bunker did graciously answer them; and I thought I would include them here, given the significance of the date, and in hopes they might benefit someone:

Some questions asked, and hopefully answered:

“If eternity is set ahead of time for people, what hope do the non-elect have? What is the purpose of witnessing then? How do you witness to them? Are you saying by witnessing to them we are acting to be God’s intervention in their lives to call them? How do you answer a non-Christian the elect concept, or it isn’t our place to try to “get” people to “want” to believe — that’s strictly up to God (ie. if they don’t like the fact that God’s sovereignty rules and therefore don’t believe, then that’s not our issue, it’s God’s. Is that correct?)”

Bunker – God has not chosen to show us who the elect and the non-elect are other than by their subsequent belief and by their fruit. We are only told to “preach the gospel to all creatures”. When God uses us to call one of His elect to Himself, it magnifies His glory that He utilizes the foolishness of preaching and foolish men to show his power, grace and mercy to those on whom He chooses to show mercy.

In fact, only the concepts of election and predestination cause “evangelizing” or “witnessing” to make any sense. Since I believe that in order for a man to believe, He must be inclined towards God by God’s sovereign grace, and it is not of man to incline himself towards God, then I also realize that ANY person that God is going to reach is going to have to have his will overturned and violently overcome by God. So I can freely pray for the lost, hoping that God will overcome their corrupt and fallen wills, and that He will cast down their unbelief and call them to Himself. However, i f we DON’T believe that God should overcome peoples wills, and that they must use the “free will” to come to Christ – then what exactly would we be praying for? Wouldn’t it violate their will for God to woo them to Himself? So the question is, why do ARMINIANS witness, when they have chosen to handcuff God in the saving of the sheep?

We must tell the Non-Christian the truth, that men are fallen corrupt and spiritually dead. That they are totally dead in trespasses and sins, and that the commandments of God are violated by them every day out of rebellion and the workings of mans evil and pernicious heart. We must tell the lost that without the Cross, they are lost and without hope in the world, incapable of doing that which is good in God’s sight. We must tell them that they are deserving of everlasting hell, and that hell is their natural abode, and it is only God’s mercy that has kept them from already traveling to where they should naturally reside. We must tell them that since God would not have any of His children perish, He has with great longsuffering allowed the rebellion and corruption of man to continue, that He might patiently call all of His sheep, the residue of men, to Himself. We must tell the Non-Christian that if they recognize that they have sinned and offended a Holy and Righteous God. If they recognize that they are in utter peril, rushing forwards to the wrath that is to come upon all that deny the reality of a Sovereign and Just God. If they truly desire to flee that wrath that is to come, then it is because God has called them to Himself, and they must merely cast themselves upon Him because He has promised that for all those that flee to Him from destruction, He will in no wise cast them out. It is the Shepherd that calls the sheep, and they hear His voice, and they follow Him. If the Non-Christian hears his voice, and “chooses” to follow Him, then it is not of their flesh that they do so, because “he was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world KNEW HIM NOT. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to THEM GAVE HE POWER to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but of God.” (John 1:10-13)

“What about Rom 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”? Doesn’t this show some sort of willful action on our part? It’s not that our action saves us, but it asks God to save us. How about Rom 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We a sk God to save us after recognizing our wretched state and that we cannot save ourselves — is that correct?.”

Bunker – You ask if these scriptures show some “willful” action on the part of man. Surely they do. Those who hold to the Doctrines of Grace certainly do not deny that there is a will, and that this will is enacted when it is disposed towards God. We hold that the will, as part of the soul, is corrupted and fallen as the Bible clearly shows, and that it is naturally inclined AWAY from God and not towards Him. So how could the fallen will choose to “confess with the mouth”, or “believe in the heart”? How can the fallen man “call upon the name of the Lord” in order to be saved, if the natural and inevitable direction of the fallen will is AWAY from God and Hellward? Well, the will is Sovereignly moved upon by the sole Grace of God as he calls His sheep to Him self. Clearly those that confess the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart are only those upon whom God has chosen to move! Is it not God who calls? If God calls, and we are the responder – then How then can we leave God’s calling out of the equation in these verses? No man “chooses” from his own flesh to be inclined towards God, and to recognize his own lost state. The veil must be lifted. The scales must come off. The ears must be made to hear, and the eyes must be made to see.

“Is current sin *choosing* to disobey? How does current sin play into all of this? If it’s the will of God that determines if we are called or not, (as shown by the following: if nothing happens that isn’t a part of God’s will, then people not becoming Christians must be a part of His will), is *every* decision anyone makes part of God’s will (ie. I want to go for a jog. Am I doing that because God willed it? If not, wouldn’t the idea that someone becoming a Christian is their decision? Maybe after God taking them to a point where they realize they need Him?”

Bunker – We must delineate between the DECREED will of God, and the Command of God. These are difficult concepts, but they can be plainly shown in the scripture. It is here that the Jesuit short-robes like Dave Hunt choose to attack God’s Sovereignty. First of all, no man must “choose” to disobey, in that the natural predisposition of all of Adam’s progeny is disobedience. That God withholds with His mighty hand, certain sins, and allows others is what we see manifest as “the will” on the planet. Our natural predisposition is to total disobedience and rebellion. Disobedience and rebellion are as predictable as the earth traveling around the sun (which God also decrees and holds in his hand). God commanded that Pharaoh let his people go (Exodus 5:1) and this was a “thus saith the Lord”. But God DECREED that Pharaoh would NOT let the people go (Exodus 4:21), as God would not allow Pharaoh to do that which God had commanded. So it is in life. God has decreed from before the foundation of the world, all that which will come to pass. But God is not the author, nor the causer of sin. That we sin is of us (and the devil), WHAT SIN WE SIN is of God. God chooses to withhold us from sinning certain sins (Gen. 20:6 and many others), while he clearly allows other sins to be committed unhindered. Psalm 139:16 is a very illustrative passage, for God declares that all my members (days, histories) were written in his book when as yet there were none of them. Read all of Psalm 139 for an idea of how God controls every element of your life! The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23). Psalm 119 is a good study. There are two ways: Sin will have dominion over you, OR, God will direct all your steps. I finish this answer with Psalm 16:9 because it explains the difference between how life APPEARS and how it is: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”

“Is it correct that our “willful” actions are simply the fulfillment of God’s will?”

Bunker – Everything that comes to pass, even the Crucifixion of Christ, is the fulfillment of God’s decreed will.

“Can God’s will be resisted? Or is it true that if His will is *done*, then His will *will* be done?”

Bunker – God’s commands are resisted every day. But his will is done and cannot be resisted, as sayeth the scripture: “and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to HIS WILL in the army of heaven, AND among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou.” (Daniel 4:35)

“Is it perhaps that His will is that we make a choice for Him and that He requires that choice from us?”

Bunker – Although it is God’s command that we make a choice for Him, and that He requires that choice from us – this command does not change the fact that God has decreed from all eternity what shall come to pass, and that our perceived choices do not trump God’s decreed events. Just as He commanded all men “thou shalt do no murder”, and thou shalt not bear false witness, He also decreed to Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly”, and explained the event to us by saying of Jesus: “Him, being delivered by the DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Acts 2:23). So, we make our perceived choices, but if one of those choices has been to love God and to have an overriding affection for Him and His ways, then you can be assured that those desires are not of you, but of God who is the author and finisher of all faith. Give Him the Glory for his manifest power in overcoming your corrupt nature, and for violently throwing down your rebellion against Him.

“Do our prayers affect who are God’s elect? (praying that God would overthrow their wills. ie. can we sway God?) Also, by praying that way, doesn’t that imply a will? But it’s just not going to turn itself over (due to our fallen state) *without* God directly intervening — is that correct?

Bunker – Once again, we have wills. The lost man has a will corrupted and dead, as he is a slave and bondservant to sin and the devil. As a born again Christian, purchased, redeemed, we become bondslaves to the risen Christ – and our wills are sold into slavery to Him with which we have to do. Praying does not change eternity or the reality of God’s eternal decrees. God is the author of spiritual prayer, as He has claimed, “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we KNOW NOT WHAT we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be utttered.” That prayer which is not SPIRIT does not ascend to God (who is Spirit). That prayer which is SPIRIT, authored by God and ascends to Him (as the Bible says FROM faith TO faith). PRAYER CHANGES YOU, NOT GOD.

“Why have kids? What if they aren’t a part of God’s elect?”

Bunker – Do that which God has commanded. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” God is Sovereign, and YOU are responsible. Trust that God is sovereign, and know that there will not be one person in heaven who isn’t supposed to be there, and there will not be one person in hell who isn’t supposed to be there. God is not just merciful and just, but He is also good. I am certain that God has motivated you to pray for your children. Do that which God requires of you, and do not doubt that God is just and God is also willing to give you the DESIRES of your heart. Not the product of your desires, but the “will” to desire that which He has before decreed for you.

“If a person doesn’t understand about God’s elect & sovereignty, does that necessarily mean they aren’t saved?”

Bunker – Ignorance is one thing, a blatant disregard for the truth, rebellion against it , or the teaching of false doctrines to others is another. There will be many ignorant folks in heaven (us for instance), but those who teach others to stumble will receive a judgement that ought to cause them to shudder.

“Does God love everyone?”

Bunker – God clearly does not love everyone. His eternal hatred for some will be before their eyes for all eternity as they face the fires of hell. It is ludicrous for some to teach that God “loves” everyone, but He will still send them to eternal perdition, pain and suffering. As the Jesuit liar Dave Hunt would say, “What Love is This?”. God is not passionate. His “love” and his “hate” are not human emotions. They are the action of his will towards those he chooses to show mercy, and upon those he chooses to show justice. Imagine a bumper sticker on the side of the ark, “Smile, God loves you” as billions perish beneath the waves.

“What do you say to someone when they say “Oh, it’s a translation issue.
My translation says …”? (ie. the JWs)

Bunker – I do my best not to say anything to them, other than to pronounce their utter peril if they continue to slight the word of God.

“What is dispensationalism?”

Bunker – That is a huge topic, and an important one. Please go to this link and read the treatise by A.W. Pink on dispensationalism: http://home.earthlink.net/~dddewber/pinkdisp.htm [This link no longer works, but you can read it currently at http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Dispensationalism/index.htm — David]

“It seems to me that there was a point where I had to decide whom I was going to follow, and that God mercifully took me to that point, offering me a way back to Him. Or is that He mercifully took me to that point to get me to come back to Him? How does this fit into some of things you talk about regarding choice, experience and relationship with God? I know you said the Bible doesn’t talk about a “personal relationship”, and I couldn’t find it either :-), but isn’t there some sort of relationship going on? Did not Christ personally relate with His disciples?”

Bunker – Would you say that God brought you to that point, the point of your “decision” without knowing and decreeing for what purposes He engaged in the endeavor? Or would you say that it is fair to say that since you are 3D and must progress forward in linear, temporal time – that to you this event seemed like a choice that could go either way, but to God, who is eternally outside of time, not affected by linear events, and able to see all of time at one time – that you were brought to this point so that his eternal decree that you should be one of HIS SHEEP and one of HIS FLOCK and forever be in HIS PRESENCE, would come to pass?

I know those are a lot of questions. Thank you very much for any time you
might spend on this.

Bunker – They are important questions, and I will share them and my answers with many more who might be benefited by them. Thank you for your heartfelt questions and may God be glorified by our exchange.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Michael Bunker

Amen!

Finally, back a long time ago, I put together a document of scriptures that reveal the doctrines of grace, God’s sovereignty, the particular redemption of a certain people by Christ Jesus, etc.; and you can view that document from our web page called Election, Atonement, and Other Interesting Verse Sets.

Sue and I are very grateful to the Lord for granting His Word and Light, and for granting the teachers to us He has in those preachers of the past and present, including Mr. Bunker; and it is our prayer that the Lord Christ mold us in His image, that He protect us from deception, and that He glorify Himself through our marriage, wherever that might lead.

— David

Susan’s Musin’s – Journey Into a Proper View of Christian Childlessness

While growing up it never occurred to me that I might be sitting here at the age of 49 with no children, or grandchildren for that matter. I always imagined I would get married in my early 20’s and start having children very soon afterward like most everyone else at that time. But I experienced “special bulletins” and “technical difficulties” over many years, and my life screen never got back to its regularly scheduled programming. Somehow the blueprint I had drawn up for my life early on had gotten some coffee stains on it or something. The word “give” had been smudged out of the word “caregiver” (give or take an “e”) at the top of the blueprint objectives, and off I went on a quest for a great “career” instead of what I should have been doing all along according to God’s word. Over time, I became a bit numb and suppressed my innate maternal desires.

Thankfully, the Lord brought my wonderful and godly husband into my life at age 38; and just a few weeks after I turned 40, the Lord brought us together in marriage–the first for both of us late bloomers.

My husband and I, Lord willing, will celebrate our 9th anniversary next week. Early on in our marriage, I thought the Lord might grant us to have a child; but it never happened. Before we got married, my husband and I had sat down for “the talk” and both agreed we were fine if the Lord brought us children or if we never had any. Looking back, I think I truly did feel that way but was secretly assuming and hoping that God would send us at least one child.

During the past several years in learning about God’s sovereignty, I began to study the Bible with regard to this subject. God was gracious to point out to me that throughout the Bible it was He and only He who opened and closed wombs, and that it is He and only He who opens and closes wombs today. After all these years of agrarianism and gardening, reciting 1 Cor. 3:6, where Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase,” it didn’t click that this applies to ALL provision from God, spiritual and temporal. There is no promise from God that He will provide what we want. It is His decision alone, for His glory. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” – Romans 11:36. That should have shut me up right there, but my flesh was still asking why.

Note to self: Don’t ask why unless you are prepared for the answer. My mind wandered back through all those years of sewing seeds of sin and unrighteousness, my selfishness, and my oblivion to God’s sovereignty and ways. I realized that God has actually been MORE than gracious to me in protecting me from myself and all of the things that could and should have happened along the trajectory of the path I was walking. It is not mine to question the “whys” and “why nots” of God.

It was not until I started learning in the Bible about God’s intended role for women in being godly helpmeets to their husbands (Genesis 2:18-25) and godly mothers to their children (Psalm 127:1-5), the roles for which we were created, that repentance and regret hit me HARD. I had wasted and sinned away all those precious child-bearing and rearing years in selfish pursuits, with nothing of spiritual value to show for it. I had offended God infinitely with my sin. I had put the spotlight on myself as the victim through my eyes, but God now allowed me to see myself through His eyes. It’s embarrassing and shameful to look back and see all my “boo-hoos” and “why mes” and what a rebellious sinner I was (and still am, but I pray Christ in His faithfulness is still working to conform me into His image). I am eternally grateful to God for His forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that God, in His mercy in showing me my sin and extending forgiveness, brings glory to Himself, and moreover that He glorifies Himself through me in whatever way He pleases.

It would be untruthful if I said my flesh does not still yearn to love, nurture and rear a child with my husband in the way of the Lord, bringing glory to Him; but now Dave and I can TRULY say in this regard that we want what the Lord wants for whatever reason He in His infinite counsel has for us. We know there are adoption and foster care agencies out there tied to worldly systems, but we choose to trust in God completely for all provision, including this. And it has also been encouraging to see all of the faith-building situations in our lifestyle that have translated into maturing our trust in this area.

I pray God may use my journey into a proper view of childlessness to help someone who may be struggling with the same issue. Now, this blog post could have read a little differently, in that, I could have grown up living in obedience to God’s word and been married at a young age with no known impediment to having children, yet my womb could still have been closed. But the conclusion I pray would have been the same: that God, with all of His attributes, is sovereign, which needs to be enough, regardless of the situation.

I’ve purposely tried to stay more objective and less emotional with this post because it truly is not about me. I was/am not seeking pity or encouraging words, but I wrote this in case God might see fit to use it for His glory, and I pray He blesses it to the spiritual benefit of the reader.

Susan

Mercy in the Drought

As anyone who reads our blog probably knows, we have been in an extensive drought this year (they say the worst in 50 years), starting especially October 2010. By the time we got through September of this year, we had probably had around 1/4 of rain we normally get year to date; and the groups’ catch-water containers and ponds were “running on fumes.” Back in a previous blog post about our 2008 garden, I had indicated that I had come to a point of deciding to not go to the world for water again (our water doesn’t magically appear out of faucets); and with the way things were going, at times it would start to get a little desperate — I was even starting to prepare mentally and logistically (with sand filters, etc.) for having to start to drink pond water.

The drought has been pretty devastating state-wide. Many ranchers have had to completely liquidate their cattle due to lack of water, tanks (ponds) that we’ve never seen dry before have gone dry, and hay has been scarce and expensive.

Regardless of how things occur in this world, the Lord Jehovah IS faithful, IS gracious, IS merciful. I believe we must always remember that He IS those things, regardless of our circumstances. It is only by His perfect and infinite graces, mercies and wisdom, in accordance with His perfect will and sovereignty, that He ever reveals those things to us in tangible or experimental (experiential) ways.

Throughout our time of drought this year, God has graciously granted provisions for all of us here to maintain ourselves and our animals without having to specially go to the world for water. Our personal cistern and polypropylene tank once again never ran dry, even after discovering a pretty significant leak in the floor of the cistern, where we were probably losing 500 gallons a week at one point (argh!!). When they would get low, the Lord would drop some rain on us to grant another few weeks.

It has been an interesting time of faith and trust-testing. Through it though, we are reminded daily upon Whom we depend, and look to Him daily for those, sometime weekly-provided, provisions; and through it, we find our sin and failures, which is a good thing, and is for what we pray, along with subsequent repentance.

Graces and Mercies

I also wanted to share a couple of other things that occurred along the way that I have taken, hopefully not out of vain imagination, as tokens from the Giver of provision.

We had a tough time keeping up with the orchard. We really don’t have a way of watering the trees right now directly from a water source; and so we have to haul water to them, which is difficult with 25-30 trees. We did some pond runs a couple of times, and watered some from the cistern, and at one point I finally got the who-would-have-thought-it idea of watering them using our camper grey water (Lord please forgive me for not using that water sooner and just sending it to waste). Still, with 100 degree F temperatures for month on end, and no rain, some of the trees I believe haven’t made it, although I guess we’ll know better next Spring, Lord willing.

However, one day while I was out there in the orchard, I looked, and lo, and behold, on one of the trees, there were some peaches actually growing! I was astounded, as that tree hadn’t really received even much of the manual watering. One had fallen to the ground, and here are the four I was able to harvest. And they tasted wonderfully!

Drought 2011 Peaches

Moreover, we had at one point in the Spring received a few inches of rain; and so I decided to plant our tomatoes. Well, obviously I didn’t know what was to come with the rest of Spring and Summer, in temperature and precipitation; but we did what we could to try to keep them at least alive. Through it all though, along in September one day, I looked, and lo, and behold, there was actually a little, tiny tomato that had grown! I smiled greatly, and thought of the Lord’s providence, and how He grants all of these things in accordance with His will. It was a beautiful sight to see that tomato and a beautiful thing to behold God’s providential hand:

Drought 2011 Tomato

Further, at one point, our teacher Mr. Bunker forwarded the below video on to us, as an encouragement in a weary time. Here is a picture of the beginning of that video, and I’ve drawn in an arrow pointing to right about where we are (if you click the picture, you can see a larger version):

Drought 2011 Texas Map in 2009

If you watch the video, keep an eye on where we are:


If you’ll notice, our county and the one right to our east were the last ones to go into the extreme drought. The Lord graciously and mercifully granted quenchings amidst the fire, even though we don’t deserve them.

Rain

By October, the tanks (ponds) on the land were really starting to get low; and even our county had gone into the highest level of drought the professionals note. If the tanks were to go dry, all of our cows would have to go. But, once again, the Lord graciously and mercifully granted a revelation of His graces and mercies in bringing the rains; and for the time it rained, it came a-plenty! We received over 5 inches in around 24 hours, which caused water to run, which filled the tanks, and provided lots of water for the catch-water tanks and cisterns around the land.

Here is the near side of our cistern (the side that fills first):

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Cistern Near Side

Before looking into the far side, I had hoped that perhaps the water would have gone over the middle divider at least somewhat; but when I looked, this is what I found!

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Cistern Far Side

And then it was time to check the pond. Wow! This is one of the fullest times it’s ever been!

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Pond

What a humbling, welcome site to see water in our containment systems! We are so very grateful to the Lord!

With the rains around here comes mud, and it had been a while since we had experienced slogging around in it. And Sue got a quick reminder of what it was like, as the mud reached out and grabbed her to the ground when she was going to milk the goats (you can see a little of the food spilled). But, given the circumstances, I don’t believe she minded. 🙂

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Slopping in the Mud

And I don’t think the goats minded the water either:

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Fields

The past 12 months have been a time to reflect and never forget. May we ever remember God’s direct hand in our provisions, as He is the one who brings the rain; and we pray for His continued provisions and healing of the land. We pray He would grant us learning from these difficult times, and grow us in trust in Him. May we always be grateful, humbled and awed by His loving, condescending, gracious, merciful, and caring hand. And may these things bring us into greater obedience to Him, out of love for Him. Amen.

(Please don’t skip the following part:)

Job 36

1 Elihu also proceeded, and said,

2 Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God’s behalf.

3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

4 For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.

5 Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.

6 He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.

7 He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.

8 And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;

9 Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.

10 He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.

11 If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.

12 But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.

13 But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.

14 They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.

15 He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.

16 Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.

17 But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.

18 Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.

19 Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.

20 Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.

21 Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

22 Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?

23 Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?

24 Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.

25 Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off.

26 Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

27 For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:

28 Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.

29 Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?

30 Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.

31 For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.

32 With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.

33 The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.

Job 37

1 At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.

2 Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.

3 He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.

4 After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.

5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.

6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.

7 He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.

8 Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.

9 Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.

10 By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.

11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:

12 And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.

13 He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.

14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

15 Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?

16 Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?

17 How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?

18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?

19 Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.

20 Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.

21 And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.

22 Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.

23 Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.

24 Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.

— David

Susan’s Musin’s – Ezekiel’s Wife

I was reading in Ezekiel Chapter 24 recently and was taken back when I got to verses 16 and 18:

Verse 16: “Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes [he is referring to Ezekiel’s wife] with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down”…..Verse 18: “So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died: and I did in the morning as I was commanded.”

In a larger context, God was using the taking of Ezekiel’s wife as a sign and example to the Israelites. I stopped to ponder and meditate on this for a while. Matthew Henry says this about this passage:

“He must lose a good wife, that should suddenly be taken from him by death. God gave him notice of it before, that it might be the less surprise to him (v. 16): Behold, I take away from thee the desire of thy eyes with a stroke. Note, (1.) A married state may very well agree with the prophetical office; it is honourable in all, and therefore not sinful in ministers. (2.) Much of the comfort of human life lies in agreeable relations. No doubt Ezekiel found a prudent tender yoke-fellow, that shared with him in his griefs and cares, to be a happy companion in his captivity.

“Death is a stroke which the most pious, the most useful, the most amiable, are not exempted from. (5.) When the desire of our eyes is taken away with a stroke we must see and own the hand of God in it: I take away the desire of thy eyes. He takes our creature-comforts from us when and how he pleases; he gave them to us, but reserved to himself a property in them; and may he not do what he will with his own?”

Dr. John Gill has this to say:

“I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; meaning his wife; who very probably was of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to; however, of an amiable disposition, and in her conjugal relation very agreeable to the prophet; and, no doubt, a truly religious woman, and upon all account’s desirable to him. This lovely object of his affection the Lord, who is the sovereign disposer of all persons, signifies he would take away from him by death unto himself; that is, suddenly and at once.”

My carnal man at first responded emotionally and in defense of “Mrs.” Ezekiel. I thought, “Wow, what a raw deal to be taken from your beloved husband all because God wanted to prove a point. And I can’t believe Ezekiel was able to just ‘not’ grieve over his wife’s death as God commanded.” I thought of how much I love my husband and love being his wife and serving him, and it made me sad to think of us being apart, and my flesh really clung on to it. But then I was reminded how God in His word continues to reveal to me that we as His creatures are His handiwork, and He made us for HIS glory, and EVERYTHING He does is to bring glory to Himself:

– Isaiah 46:10 – “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”

– Daniel 4:35 – “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”

– 1 Samuel 2:6-8 – “6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them.”

– Psalms 39:5 “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”

– Proverbs 16:4 – “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

– Revelation 4:11 – “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

…and I repented.

In this day and age, it seems to me we are taught to believe that God owes us something; or it is our right to live our lives in comfort and prosperity as happy as possible. But it’s not about me — it’s about Him! I am asking God to continue to set my mind right and see things from the perspective of “whatever and however God chooses to bring glory to Himself is what I want, whatever that looks like and however that affects my life.” I hope that if I had been Mrs. Ezekiel and had learned about the situation beforehand, I would have said something like, “What a privilege to be used of God for His glory in this manner! The Lord’s will be done!”

This is also helping me to take my focus off of myself in this lifestyle of agrarian separation we live, when things get really tough, uncomfortable or inconvenient. I want to be able to honestly hold that God is sovereign, so He knows EXACTLY what is going on, and this is how He has chosen to glorify HIMSELF in my life at this time. May I learn to ever say, “For THINE is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”

I thank God for the people in His timeless word through whom He has chosen to teach us these precious truths.

Susan