A Mighty Fortress in the Plague

I recently discovered that Luther wrote his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in the midst of the black plague on Psalm 46, not at the start of the reformation. Steven Lawson records:

“By 1527, Luther showed signs of becoming weary in the battle for truth. He was stricken by tightness in his chest, dizziness, and fainting spells. He experienced weakness so severe that he feared he was about to die. Luther lamented: “I spent more than a week in death and in hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation.”41 Compounding his weakness, the Black Plague swept through Germany. Many fled, but Luther chose to remain in Wittenberg and opened his home as a hospital. Amid the crisis, he almost lost his young son to death. At this soul-crushing time, he wrote his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” based on Psalm 46. God is “a bulwark never failing,” he wrote, whose “kingdom is forever.” Without doubt, God was the inexhaustible source of Luther’s strength.”

(from the Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther)

“To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

(Psalm 46:1–11 ESV)

Book Recommendation: Seerveld’s Treatment of Song of Songs

Calvin G. Seerveld’s Never Try to Arouse Erotic Love Until… is the best treatment of the Song of Solomon that makes sense of the whole of biblical redemptive history. I’ve always questioned how Song of Songs (as it is called) would be a positive treatment of Solomon having a single-hearted love. It is possible his first Egyption wife was the character, certainly, but it is more likely that it is as Seerveld explains: A critique of Solomon.

So, Seerveld’s Never Try to Arouse Erotic Love Until… helps. Furthermore, his expertise in the language helps solidify the theory by showing that there are clearly different voices in the Song of Songs. The evidence is overwhelming in that respect, and if I ever get chance to teach on it, I plan to quickly pick up Seerveld on the topic.

I commend this book to you who are wanting to learn the book for preaching and teaching, but also to young people who want to know what love should be like and what it never should be like. The drama also has potential to minister to the sexually abused and forsaken, the divorced, the single, and others. Pick up and read! 


The Shield of St. Patrick

“The Shield of St. Patrick

Attributed to St. Patrick

Paraphrased by Cecil Frances Alexander

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ’s incarnation,

his baptism in the Jordan river, his death on the cross for my salvation;

his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way,

his coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken to my need,

the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward,

the Word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me;

Christ to comfort and restore me;

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,

of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word;

praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!”


Essentials for Spiritual Building

Today’s sermon audio brought to you by

Sermon “Essentials Components for Spiritual Building in a Complicated World” from 1 Kings 5:1–18 by Brian Mann

Poor Sinner Dejected With Fear

  1. Poor sinner, dejected with fear,
    Unbosom thy mind to the Lamb;
    No wrath on His brow He does wear,
    Nor will He poor mourners condemn;
    His arm of omnipotent grace
    Is able and willing to save;
    A sweet and a permanent peace
    He’ll freely and faithfully give.
  2. Come just as thou art, with thy woe,
    Fall down at the feet of the Lamb;
    He will not, He cannot say, “Go”,
    But surely will take out thy stain
    A fountain is opened for sin,
    And thousands its virtues have proved
    He’ll take thee, and plunge thee therein,
    And wash thee from filth in His blood.
  3. The soul that on Jesus relies,
    He’ll never, no never deceive;
    He freely and faithfully gives
    More blessings than we can conceive;
    Yea, down to old age He will keep,
    Nor will He forsake us at last;
    He knows and is known by His sheep;
    They’re His, and He will hold them fast.

Thoughts on Revival Coming from Only From Above

I was reading some on revival this evening, when this thought hit me so powerfully concerning the irresistible grace of God.

If the Spirit does not overcome you irresistibly you don’t know the Spirit of God, you simply have come on your own, and that is contrary to Jesus’ words “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). The very word “draw” can be translated to “drag” like in Acts 21:30 where the apostle was dragged in before the magistrates. So, the Lord in his love does draw us to himself, or we do not come to Christ. There is no such thing as coming to Christ on one’s own.

This above thought is further supported as there was such a contrast noted by Dr. Murray in his book on Pentecost Today concerning a time when the new school of people in Finney’s day taught a form of revival that was worked up as opposed to the old school view that revival was prayed down.


A Solid & Sure Hope

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by John Piper called “Gentiles Rejoice in the Root of Jesse” preached on Dec. 11, 2005

“we hope for the new heavens and new earth. Romans 8:20–21, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope[!]21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Someday the creation will no longer be plagued by earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and the threat of flu pandemics.

The verses in Isaiah 11 (6–9) immediately preceding the one Paul quotes in verse Romans 15:12 say:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Because of Christ our hope for that day is solid and sure.”

The Process Whereby Affliction is Transformed in the Believer Into Hope

The Process Whereby Affliction is Transformed in the Believer Into Hope

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

(Romans 5:3–5 ESV)

I take from an old commentary by Godet the title of this post: “The process whereby affliction becomes transformed in the believer into hope.” Additionally throughout his commentary was helpful to this meditation on the text.

The stage that is set is that of suffering. It is brought up after speaking of having peace with God as a result of justification by faith. The apostle then deals with the objection: What about suffering? Do we have peace then? That’s the idea.

The apostle argues: yes. We know this joyfully speaking because the process is as follows:

First, suffering gives rise to endurance or constancy. The word “endurance” speaks of staying, or bearing up under a burden, blows, etc. 

Second, the constancy gives rise to character or better put “approval.” The word speaks of being  a proved Christian, one who has shown what he is. “The faith of the believer has held good in suffering, has shown itself real and effective, the gold which has come forth purified from the furnace” (Godet).

Third, this proven-ness now gives rise to hope. Constancy rises out of Suffering, Proven-ness rises out of Constancy; and lastly Hope rises out of Proven-ness. Nothing which happens to the believer now frightens him because of the hope that has been “rendered brighter by sufferings” (Ibid.) which has its source in the revelation of God and His love. And note that the source of that which has given a resurrection to endurance, character, and hope is that of the perfect love of God, not our love for him. 

The words “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” are in the perfect, meaning out of God’s heart his love has come and it has not been withdrawn (Ibid.). The whole resulting state of the process producing endurance, character, and hope “leaves a permanent impression of the love which God has” for us (Ibid.). This came about when “heaven was opened to the believer, and the objective and perfectly real character of this inward revelation” was actually experienced on the basis of the objective fact of what Christ has done for us (cf. Romans 5:6–11). Thus the ultimate cause for the resurrection of endurance, approval, and hope is that of the cross of Jesus Christ. What power! 


The Crossover Between Infectious Disease & Abiding in Christ

Our world is presently in the midst of a pandemic. Nonetheless, we may learn well from wisdom from the past. This morning with no intention to find such a connection, I read the following which in itself makes an adequate statement on the crossover between infectious disease & abiding in Christ. Another way to put it would be that we ought to make at least as much effort as we do to avoid apostasy as we do a plague. Here is Dr. Owen speaking to the matter:

Men are careful about their health and safety at all times but whenever a general infectious disease arises (the plague, or something similar),everyone will be particularly watchful to avoid being infected by it. Now if departing from this spring of life is the prevalent plague of our age, and the plague of our locality ,and the plague or christians, we ought to be particularly careful that it does not reach us in some degree or other. It is quite clear to me that the apostasy, this cure apostasy, that has spread itself over this country, with fruits of ungodliness and uncleanness, consists of an apostasy and departure from the person of Christ. The authors of our day write of how little use the person of Christ is in religion; that his work was only that of bringing the gospel to us. Consider the preaching and moralising that we hear today. Most of it is preaching and discoursing about virtue and vice, just as in the days of the philosophers of old.But Jesus Christ is laid aside as if quite forgotten, as if he was of no use and of no consideration in religion, as if men did not know in what way he contributes to the living of a life near to God. If we are wise we should consider very carefully whether we ourselves have been influenced by this apostasy. A general tendency can affect all men, even the best of believers, and prevail upon our spirits. I am afraid that some of us do not have that love for Christ, that delight in him, that we used to have, nor do we spend as much time with him as we once did.Jesus Christ, who is the life and centre, the glory and the power, of all spiritual life and of all that we have with respect to God, has been missing, to a considerable extent, from our faith and affections…But this is his commandment, ‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me’ (John I5:4).

(From John Owen, Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times, pp.15–16, Banner of Truth)

Awakened More Than a Little by Lamenting

Prayer not plague is what changes people’s hearts and a nation’s well-being. So argues John Owen when he writes of the immorality of his nation of England at the time:

It would be an endless work to list all the sins that reign among us—cruelty, violence, uncleanness, sensuality, drunkenness—all raging and reigning to their utmost in the nation. I mention these things as matters that should be  grief to us before God, and should affect us whenever we think of them. To this great predominance and prevalence of sin in the whole nation must be added an awful sense of security.  The truth is that at one time the people of this land were awakened a little.  When God’s judgments were upon us—the plague, the  fire, and, a year later, another warning—there was a degree of quickening like a  man awaking from a dead sleep, lifting his head and rubbing  his eyes for  a few moments. But having observed something of the world now for about forty years, I can testify that I never saw our land in such a complacent security as it is at present. 

(from John Owen, Searching Our Hearts pp.11–12 in the Puritan Paperback Edition by Banner of Truth, Emphasis mine.)

Owen goes on to state that God’s people should be affected by observing such immorality. He quotes Psalm 119:136 which reads as follows:

“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.”

(Psalm 119:136 ESV)

Notice, “because people do not keep your law!” The Christian should be like Lot in having their souls vexed over the immorality around them in their own nations.  But not only that—also the church!

We would do well, brothers, to consider the state of the church of God in the world and among ourselves, and to consider our own condition. There seems to me, I must confess, to be a great decay in all the churches of Christ in the nation, especially among those of us who have had most peace and prosperity. That which we call zeal for God is almost completely lost among us. Some of us have almost forgotten whether there exists such a thing as the cause of Christ in the world. We, who once cried and prayed about it and had it upon our hearts, have sat down in our narrow compass and almost forgotten that there is such a thing as the interest of Christ in the world, inspiring us to an active zeal for the ordinances of God according to his rule, as God requires of us.

(Ibid., 14.)

The solution according to Owen is simply this:

Let us pray that we may be acted upon by the Spirit of God and enlivened by the grace of God in everything we do. 

May the Lord help us to know the plague of our own hearts, and to be enabled to plead with him for grace and mercy to help us in every time of need.

(Ibid., 15)

So, we learn this, namely that plague, fire, and other warnings can at best awaken people a little, but prayer enabled by God through the hearts of his mournful people, can get the ear of God to act upon us by his Spirit.