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: grace (Page 1 of 2)

David’s Digest: Do We Have Our Own Gourd?

Jonah 4:5-11:

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

6 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

As I read this recently, something struck me: This temporary thing made Jonah “exceeding glad.” Is there something in my life that I think is missing that would make me “exceeding glad”? Or rather what came to mind personally, is there something in my life that I wish wasn’t, and that being gone would make me “exceeding glad”?

Do I have my own form of “Jonah’s Gourd”?

Do we truly trust God in His providences in our lives, especially in the difficult times of trial and affliction? Do we do well to be angry at God for them, or the lack of something we think we should have?

Or better, do we thank the Lord for these things, or the lack of something we think we should have, in our lives, as the guiding hand of a loving Father?

1 Thess 5:18 – “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Heb 12:8 – “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

And then, what does the Bible say should make us “exceeding glad”?

First and foremost, the Lord Himself:

Psalm 21:6 – “For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.

But further, not only thankful for His afflicting hand but:

Matt 5:11-12 – “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

1 Pet 4:12-13 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

And so, there we have it…it’s the trial and afflictions themselves that are to make us “exceeding glad”, not some temporal thing in our lives, or difficulties being removed. In fact, removing them might not only be evidence of losing the loving chastisement of a Father that makes us better followers of Him, but also the losing of the thing itself in which we are to be exceeding glad!

May the Lord Christ Himself be our greatest joy! And then, may His trials and afflictions, in the not having things we think we want, or the not removing of things we want removed, make us exceeding glad, and always thankful!

— David

Latest Completed Reading: Charles Spurgeon’s “All of Grace”

You may know we’ve been recording our reading of Christian writings we find beneficial, all of which you can find here.

And we just finished our latest: Charles Spurgeon’s “All of Grace”

It has a wonderful Gospel message, and encouragement for sinners to come to Christ, and not let anything get in the way of that. He weaves the doctrines of grace with a Gospel call nicely, walking that line between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

The entire reading is available now at the link above, where you can listen to them individually and also download all the files in a zip file.

Our prayer for all of these readings is that someone more inclined to listen than read would be able to participate in these means of grace, and that the Lord would bless them to the listener’s heart and life.

— David

David’s Digest: Coming Boldly to the Throne

Heb 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

It seems to me this verse can be used to approach God in ways that we might approach just anyone, or in any way we might feel. And while the Bible declares God to be the friend and father of saints, I believe it cannot be forgotten that He is almighty God, holy King and majestic Lord! Would we approach an earthly king or even a civil magistrate just however we felt like it? I think not.

The following are some gleanings that I believe accurately reflect how we should and should not approach God, and for what reasons most importantly:

First, how did Esther approach her king and husband no less? Here is from Esther 4:15-5:2:

15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,

16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.

2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.

Esther recognized the authority of her king over her in that she knew she was transgressing the law and that he could punish her to death for it, and she came in proper apparel fit for the presence of a king showing reverence. She and her people had also prepared themselves beforehand in humility.

I believe these show us we need to be dressed in Christ’s righteousness to approach God, and only this way dressed shows reverence to His holiness and respect for His declared order (John 14:6 – “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.“), and that approaching God belligerently or in pride (“God I have something to say to you!” under the guise that “Oh, God is big enough to handle it!”) could very well bring down the King’s wrath upon us.

The following is from JC Ryle on prayer, which you can read in full here, that discusses improper and proper prayer boldness:

(g) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of boldness in prayer. There is an unseemly familiarity in some men’s prayers, which I cannot praise.

But there is such a thing as a holy boldness, which is exceedingly to be desired. I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when he pleads with God not to destroy Israel: “Wherefore,” says he, “should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains…Turn from thy fierce wrath” (Exo 32:12). I mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when the children of Israel were defeated before Ai: “What,” says he, “what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (Jos 7:9).

This is the boldness for which Luther was remarkable. One who heard him praying said, “What a spirit—what a confidence was in his very expressions! With such a reverence he sued, as one begging of God, and yet with such hope and assurance as if he spake with a loving father or friend”.

Here also I fear we sadly come short. We do not sufficiently realize the believer’s privileges. We do not plead as often as we might, “Lord, are we not Thine own people? Is it not for Thy glory that we should be sanctified? Is it not for Thine honor that thy gospel should increase?

Finally, here is what Puritan commentator Dr. John Gill says about Heb 4:16, indicating the main reasons for coming before the throne of God:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace
Either to Christ, who is before spoken of as an high priest, and who was typified by the mercy seat, to which there seems to be an allusion; and coming to him as a priest upon his throne is very proper: to him saints come for pardon and cleansing, and for a justifying righteousness, for the acceptance of their persons, and the presentation of their services, and for every supply of grace; and to him they may come “boldly”, since he stands in the relations of a Father, husband, and brother, and from him they may expect receive mercy, since it is kept for him, and with him, and is only dispensed through him; and in him they may hope to find grace, since all fulness of it dwells in him; and help in every time of need, since their help is laid on him.

Or else to God the Father, since Christ, the high priest, is the way of access to God, and it is by him the saints come unto the Father; who is represented as on a “throne”, to show his majesty, and to command reverence; and as on a “throne of grace”, to encourage distressed souls to come unto him; and to express his sovereignty in the distribution of his grace:

And this coming to him is a sacerdotal act, for every believer is a priest; and is not local, but spiritual, and with the heart, and by faith; and chiefly regards the duty of prayer, and a drawing nigh to God in that ordinance with spiritual sacrifices to offer unto him:

And this may be done “boldly”; or “with freedom of speech”; speaking out plainly all that is in the heart, using an holy courage and intrepidity of mind, free from servile fear, and a bashful spirit; all which requires an heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, faith, in the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, a view of God, as a God of peace, grace, and mercy, and a holy confidence of being heard by him;

And such a spirit and behaviour at the throne of grace are very consistent with reverence of the divine Majesty, with submission to his will, and with that humility which becomes saints. …

The end of coming hither is,

that we may obtain mercy;
the sure mercies of David, the blessings of the everlasting covenant; particularly pardoning mercy, and the fresh application of it, and every other blessing of grace that is needful: and there is reason to expect it, since there is mercy with God; and it is with Christ, as the head of the covenant; and it is ready for those that ask it; and it has been obtained by many, and is everlasting.

And find grace to help in time of need;
the Syriac version renders it, “in time of affliction”; which is a time of need, as every time of distress is, whether from the immediate hand of God, or through the persecutions of men, or the temptations of Satan: and help at such times may be expected; since not only God is able to help, but he has promised it; and he has laid help on Christ; and gives it seasonably, and at the best time; and it springs from grace, yea, it is grace that does help; by which may be meant, the discoveries of God’s love, and the supplies of grace from Christ: which may be hoped for, seeing God is the God of all grace; and he is seated on a throne of grace; and all fulness of grace dwells in Christ: to find grace often, signifies to find favour with God, to be accepted by him, as well as to receive grace from him.

May God grant us a holy awe, fear, and reverence of Him, for who He is, and what He has done, His great works throughout time, the salvation of sinners, the revelation of Himself through Christ, Christ’s righteousness, His infinite graces, mercies and love, and the gift of His Spirit; and may these bring us to humility before Him and cause us to love Him in return!

— David

David’s Digest: It’s Not Salvific!

I’ve heard this before, in the context of how one lives their life. For example, “Oh, you don’t have to live such and such way…it’s not salvific!”

I agree it does not merit anything for salvation. However, salvation is a process. It starts with God’s sovereign act of changing the dead heart to a living one, a passive act on man’s part, and it continues throughout the life of the person, ending in glory. That time in the middle is the sanctification process, something the Holy Spirit does in the life of the individual by making them more holy, or Christ-like, which is by giving the person Christ’s graces, the fruit of the Spirit:

Gal 5:22-23 – “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Faith and love are the main drivers of the Christian, and with those comes obedience to God in His direction in the Bible, and the Bible would have Christians not love the world and not be conformed to it:

1 John 2:15 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Rom 12:2 – “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Using the example of how one dresses, the Bible would have Christians dress modestly. And in that modesty, given the world in its view on life and how to live it is one of a Christian’s main enemies (along with Satan and a person’s own carnal man), why would a Christian want to be as close to the way the world dresses, without supposedly stepping over the line, and not be as far away from the way the world does things, like Lot and his family escaping Sodom, not looking back desiring to be closer to it…like Lot’s wife?

So, Christianity requires OBEDIENCE to these commands, which (obedience) stems from love for Christ, which is a fruit of the Spirit, which brings sanctification, in the process of SALVATION!

Further, as I mentioned, a Christian’s enemy is his carnal man, which I believe is a person’s greatest enemy:

1 Pet 2:11 – “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts [desires], which war against the soul;

Our carnal man is at war with the soul. Part of our duty in our Christian walk is to war against our spiritual enemies.

As graces grow, the carnal man is brought lower and lower in the mortification (death-bringing) process of that carnal man. The means of denying the carnal man we have been talking about can help in that process. Again with dress, dressing modestly can help curb pride and vanity, things contrary to God, His nature and holiness. Mortification is a duty of ourselves, and as with graces, it is a work of the Spirit in the sanctification process, for which He uses means. And then, why wouldn’t a Christian want to dress in a way that brings the most mortification of pride and vanity, coming against sin in the strongest way possible?

Why would a Christian feed its enemy? A Christian should not, and ignoring this can be eternally dangerous:

Gal 6:8 – “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

And so, while nothing we do in our lives merits salvation, there are means of sanctification in the salvation process, and it is important for a professing Christian to consider how he/she live their life in light of the Bible’s directions and how Christ lived His.

— David

David’s Digest: Do & Don’t Do Unto Others

Matt 7:12 – “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

This is often looked at in the positive — be charitable, help those in need, etc. However, the reverse is also implied — do not do to others what you would not have done to you. And God is paying attention!

Puritan Thomas Manton discusses this in his sermon on Matt 7:12:

III. The third thing to be considered is the illative particle, ‘therefore.’ From what is this inferred? In the foregoing verses our Saviour speaks of audience in prayer: ‘If ye, being evil, know how to give good things unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father know how to give good things to them that ask him? Therefore, whatsoever ye would,’ &c. Christ makes many notable arguments, and shows that God is ready to give good things to us: ‘Ask, and ye shall have,’ &c. He proves it from the kindness of earthly parents to their children. And, now, therefore, to intimate this, that if men have their prayers granted, they must observe this rule; they must perform all duties of civil righteousness, as well as be earnest in acts of piety. Upon this limiting it to the audience of prayer, it plainly implies three things:—

1. That God is the judge of human actions; he will take cognisance of this, whether you do to others as they do to you, and you shall hear of it in your dealing with God; that is the first and lowest thing; and remember, you have to do with God as much as they have to do with you. He shows this to bridle the excesses of those that are in power. There are a sort of men that think they may do anything if they can do it safely: Micah ii. 1, ‘That do evil because it is in the power of their hand.’ They eagerly prosecute their purposes and desires when they have power to effect them. Now a Christian should pause upon the matter, and consider not only what is possible to be done, but what is just and lawful to be done; and conscience should put a severe restraint when nothing else can hinder us; as Joseph said, Gen. xlii. 18, ‘This do, and live; for I fear God.’ He had a full advantage against them that wrought him so much mischief, but he had an inward principle laid up in his heart which begat a tenderness, ‘I fear God.’ But when men will do everything they are able to effect, and will do anything as far as their power will reach, remember you must come before God, and God can requite it, though they cannot. It is not conscience which governs the greatest part of the world, but interest. When it is not for men’s interest, they will do no wrong; but when they have power enough to do what they intend, they care not how they trample upon their own brethren, hate and pursue them with all that is evil. It is hard to avoid this snare when we are in power. Men forget God and abuse their power, and many times, by a strange providence, they are brought to suffer the like hardness themselves. When we see the oppressions of the innocent, and things carried so perversely, we are apt to say, Lord, who shall call these men into question? who shall accuse them? Why, the sighs and groans of the oppressed before God’s tribunal upon all persons depend every moment, these will be more authentic witnesses than any matters of fact can be produced in a lower court.

2. It implieth this, and it enlargeth the rule, that whatsoever usage we expect to meet with at God’s hands, the same in some measure we should dispense and deal out to others. He is willing to give all, provided you are willing to do to others as you would be done unto. All the mercy and goodness we expect from him, that must sway our practice and conversation with men. Whatever need others have of us, the same need have we of God: Eph. vi. 8, ‘Whatsoever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.’ So for other relations. In the practice of this rule Christians are to consider not only how they would be dealt withal by men, but with God himself for Christ’s sake, which carrieth the precept far beyond the heathen latitude, and mightily enlargeth the rule. Alas! from God we have nothing but undeserved mercy, pardon of sins, &c. So we are to practise this rule, not only to those that love us, but to our enemies; we must show mercy to the worst for Christ’s sake. Strict justice, by the light of nature, requires the injurious should suffer according to the wrong is done to me. Ay! but what do I expect from God? Therefore, I am to consider how God will deal with me if I am rigid, severe, exact, and stand upon all things to the uttermost.

3. Another consideration which mightily enforceth the rule is, that if you do such things to others as you would not have them do to you, God will do that to you which you have done to others; for vengeance is his. They are not to do the same to you again, nor exact nor desire it, but God will. It is good to consider God’s judgment, of counterpassion or retaliation: ‘As thou hast done, so shall it be done to thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head,’ Obad. ver. 15. They that were pitiless, merciless to their brethren in the day of their flight from Jerusalem, God will pay them home in their own coin: ‘And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again,’ Mat. vii. 1, 2; Gen. ix. 6, ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ It is not only a law what is to be done, but a rule of providence, what God will do. What more usual than malefactors to be dealt withal according to their own wickedness? There are many instances of this judgment of counter-passion, God doing to them what they have done to others.

Adonibezek, when the people caught him and cut off his thumbs and his great toes, said, ‘Threescore and ten kings having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.’ Usually this is the dealing of God. The Israelites had their children drowned in the water by Pharaoh. What then? Pharaoh and all his host, within a little while, all his nobility and men of war, were all drowned in the water. Ahab’s blood was lapped up by dogs in the place where they shed the blood of Naboth; and Jezebel, being more guilty, was devoured with dogs. Ahab only permitted this contrivance, but Jezebel acted it. Ahab humbled himself, therefore he was buried with honour; but Jezebel was entombed in the belly of dogs, and her flesh devoured by them. A gallows, we read, was made for Mordecai, and Haman was hanged on it himself. Henry the Third of France, in that very chamber where the massacre was contrived against the Protestants, there he was slain; and his brother before him, Charles the Ninth, was found flowing in blood in his bed, who had shed so much of the blood of God’s saints. Judges ix. 18. 19, compared with ver. 23, 24. When the men of Shechem had done great injury to the house of Jerubbaal, ‘Ye are risen up against my father’s house, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons upon one stone.’ What then? ver. 23, ‘Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, that the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them.’ So also the observation of Austin is not to be passed by, upon the parable of the rich man; he that denied a crumb, could not find a drop to cool his tongue.

But you will say, Is it so with good men also, the children of God, if they should break his law, doth the Lord give them according as they have done to others? Yes; God observes the same justice; though he doth pardon the eternal punishment and take it off, yet here in this world, as to temporals, they shall have like for like. Jacob supplanted his brother; he came to Isaac as the elder, the younger instead of the elder; and Laban brings him the elder instead of the younger, Leah instead of Rachel. Asa, which put the prophet into the stocks, we read of him that he was diseased in his feet. Nay; I shall give you greater instances than that. Joseph’s brethren they were not flexible to their brother, and did not hear his cry; at length they came to Egypt upon an honest errand for corn in time of famine, and the man is inexorable: Gen. xlii. 21, ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.’ What was the matter? How comes this to work? In a storm, things at bottom we see come up to the top; so ever sins in trouble will bubble up, and we shall see that we saw not before. How come they to remember the trouble of their brother, for they knew not Joseph, and twenty years were past since they sold him? They found the man as inexorable as they had been to their brother. God s judgment of counter-passion sets their conscience a-work. A greater instance we have of Paul, that consented to the stoning of Stephen, and was present too at his execution; and it is said, ‘They laid down their garments at Paul’s feet;’ and he himself takes notice of it with great remorse afterwards, Acts xxii. 20. Well, what then? after his conversion how doth God deal with Paul? Stephen had prayed for him too among the rest, ‘Lord, lay it not to their charge;’ yet God gave him some smart remembrance of his sin. When Paul and Barnabas had been preaching at Iconium, though Barnabas had irritated them as well as Paul, they called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Barnabas, who was equal with him in preaching, God ordered it so he was not stoned; but Paul, that had consented to Stephen’s stoning, was stoned himself and carried out for dead. What need have we to be exact in observing what is required of us here, for the Lord by one means or other will return it into our bosoms. We have done that to others which we would not should be done to ourselves, and therefore will God do that to us which we do to others.

So, not only is this a command of God, but in summary:

  1. God certainly takes notice of our actions to others
  2. If we desire His mercies toward us, we need to be merciful (Matt 5:7)
  3. And if we are unmerciful (including reviling, not forgiving, etc.) to others, that is inviting and basically asking God to be unmerciful, even in those same ways, to us, and we should expect them!

    And this also applies to those who call themselves Christians! (albeit, for a true child of God, it is chastisement for their good, Rom 8:28, so they learn from their sin and pray and work to not sin in those ways anymore)

May we heed these words, and may we be full of charity, by God granting us His graces, and may we pray to these ends.

— David

David’s Digest: The Treasure of an Unpleasing Land

When new people are thinking about moving here, I often talk to them about the difficulties in the carnal man with living closely-knit to other folks, but also the great spiritual benefits that can come from that, if not viewed carnally. I also mentioned it at the end of my Living in the Darkness blog post.

For example, if I think I find some inconsistencies in my human Bible teacher’s life (who teaches the truth, desires to be conformed to Christ’s image, and where I’ve seen such transformations over the years), or I’m given a simple command (like, put that down and come help me, even if I think what I’m doing is important at the moment) by an authority over me (even more so if I’ve willingly submitted myself to that authority), or I feel my favors to someone have been abused by that person, etc., assuming my perception of the situation is correct (which I need to very carefully and prayerfully consider, perhaps over an extended period of time, that it might not be), I believe God is affording me a gracious opportunity for His graces to be shown forth in

  • humility
  • meekness
  • forbearance and mercifulness (regardless of percentage of fault, and especially in light of Christ’s infinite forbearance and mercy toward me, my sin, my human frailties, my inconsistencies, and my countless abuses of His infinite graces and mercies)
  • forgivingness (my forgiving of others, even asking God to forgive them — see Gill on Matt 6:12)
  • obedience
  • faithfulness
  • selflessness, servanthood and sacrifice (especially in light of Christ’s [God Almighty!] infinite condescension to become a selfless servant, even to be sacrificed by His creation!)
  • waiting on the Lord (sometimes for years and years and years) in prayer (which, while God works it out, either in me or the other person or both, I’ve helped keep unity and not brought schism)
  • belief in God’s sovereign hand
  • etc., etc., etc., etc.

But if I find the opposite in myself coming forth, I believe God is yet again affording me a gracious opportunity to see a lack of His spiritual graces in my life; and then, if I desire to be molded in His image, I can bring these wants before Him in repentance and supplication for these graces. Either way, God is glorified in what appears to be a troubling situation by His work in a sinful worm and wretch like me; and while my carnal man fights it and causes me grief, it is mercifully to my benefit that my heart is tried whether I see any evidence of an interest in Christ or not, so I can give diligence to make my calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) and work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), which if my heart is not proved, I may lack the Spirit’s fruit and not know it, and then never truly seek it. (As an aside, because of the difficulties with my carnal man and complete lack of spiritual ability in myself, and that God often uses trials and afflictions to teach us, I’ve also recently started to ask God for His help as He’s helping me. 🙂 ) These opportunities are a means of God’s graces.

You just don’t get these kinds of God-given opportunities, certainly alone, but also in the loose-knit “Christianity” of today. There, you can hide; here, you cannot, which, as I’m pointing out, I believe can be a good thing, in bringing about purity and holiness, in individuals and as a group. (As a result too, with examples like the ones from above, if my heart is in order, God might grant me, in His timing, a proper and appropriate opportunity for me to speak with the other person about my perceived issues with him, and I might then find that God has been working on the other person’s heart as well!)

God also uses other means to bestow His graces, in His Word, with teaching, by His ordinances, in singing, in trials and afflictions (as I mentioned), by prayer, etc. — we need to seek Him in these and all of His means, and then we’ll find (Luke 11:9). Part of obtaining God’s graces comes from asking for them, with repentance; and again, you don’t ask for them if you don’t know you need them.

In a world of barrenness, if I find a field with a bearing Tree in it, although the field may be full of weeds, and rocks and crevices and difficulties to get to the Tree, which all seem to make the field worthless, it is my private (personal) judgment that it is worth giving up everything (including my sin and carnal reactions/views, carnal/temporal gains and reputation, etc.) to buy that field to obtain the Treasure that is in it.

It is our prayer here that Christ mold us in His image, and we thank Him for the graces, mercies and grace-filled opportunities He has granted us. May we never slumber as He knocks; may we diligently seek Him and His graces; may we see things as He sees them; like a green olive tree, may we trust in His mercies for ever and wait patiently on His name in the house of God; may we be His light, shining on a hill (a rolling one here in central Texas 🙂 ) for as long here as He wills; may we never do anything to offend Him so as to have the candlestick removed or the face of His presence hidden; and may He see us through, in His faith, all the way of our “progress,” even through Jordan, to the end. Amen.

— David

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

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