The Ancient of Days and His Kingdom

Natural disasters, political unrest, and interpersonal and interracial conflicts remind us that our world is broken. We all know something isn’t right yet we struggle to identify the source of this brokenness. We can’t help but ask ourselves if this life is all there is. There is a reality outside the material and it is a spiritual reality. Some question God’s existence on the premise that since the world is bad God cannot surely exist and if he does then he must be a self-centered and brutal deity. My goal in this post is to remind Christians that our Servant-King continues to reign victoriously. I would also like to challenge those who view evil in the world as a certain evidence that there is no God.

The year was around 566 B.C- 563 B.C, around thirty-nine years since Daniel and his friends were taken into exile. Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Babylonian empire and Belshazzar served as second in command. (Daniel 5:7, 16) One source suggests that Daniel 7 occurred before the events recorded in 5-6. (Holmon Bible Handbook, 1992) God’s people were exiled into Babylon as a consequence for their idolatrous worship. Even though they had been forgiven, they still had to submit to God’s discipline. Though God chastised His people, He did not abandon them or love them less. Daniel’s narrative reminds the people that God is still in control even though the Babylonian empire possessed great power.

Daniel 7 serves as a great reminder of the Sovereign Lord’s power and kingdom. Some readers focus only on the beasts and the horns and significant apocalyptic interpretations of the passage. The biblical writer intends to convey the solidarity of God’s kingdom and reign. Contemporary readers should understand Daniel’s message in relation to God’s rule and reign, even in the midst of a chaotic cultural context.

Powerful words are written in Daniel 7:9-28. Here are seven quick observations about the text.

  1. The Ancient of Days sits to demonstrate his confident and sure reign. (7:9)
  2. Many gather around His throne to worship or serve him. (7:10)
  3. The throne room represents a place of judgment. (7:10b)
  4. The Ancient of Days bestows his authority to one called, “Son of Man”. (7:13)
  5. The Son of Man was given a kingdom of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. (7:14)
  6. This kingdom is eternal in contrast to the wicked and temporary Babylonian empire. (7:14b, 7:27)
  7. One day earthly kings will surrender their right to rule to the one Sovereign, the Ancient of Days. (7:27)

Significant attention can and should be given to study of this passage. My goal, for now, is to encourage believers and challenge unbelievers.

Christian, take courage knowing that this earthly kingdom will soon come to pass. Our King is the Ancient of Days. His Kingdom has no end. Jesus is a co-equal with God the Father. Even though we see death and destruction every day, Jesus is building a kingdom. His project of rescuing sinners will culminate at His forthcoming return. Daily we are reminded of the effects of the Fall from Eden’s paradise (Gen.3) but we are also reminded of the power of the Gospel. The Good News about Jesus changes people and cultures. We must submit to Jesus’s kingship today. You and I can be agents of redemption in a broken and chaotic world. Our imperative is that we have faith in the Ancient of Days and the eternality of His kingdom.

Some of you may be asking, “If God is good and he is king, why doesn’t he do something about our messed up world?” That is a powerful question and ancient question. Here we introduce the problem of evil. Contrary to a naturalistic worldview, Christians posit that the world is broken. Adam and Eve chose rebellion over submission in Genesis 3. The decision of our first parents has permeated every aspect of our personhood and our lives. Earlier in the post, I mentioned that we all know things are not as they ought to be yet we struggle to pinpoint the problem. The problems in our world are the result of human choices and actions. We are human and we are broken. Thankfully the God of the Bible is a loving and pursuing God. Redemption is the antidote to the sickness of our world.

But I am getting ahead of myself. In the next post, I will reflect on the goodness of the Biblical God and the problem of evil.

Here it is sufficient to say that the source of hurt in our world is the result of original sin. Original sin changes the way we relate to God, others, self, and the created order. Natural disasters, political unrest, and social dysfunction are not the result of an absent and unloving God. Rather, these are the result of human sin and refusal to submit to the Good Creator. When we attempt to be our own god we contribute to pain and brokenness in the world. When we submit to the Ancient of Days we alleviate the pain and suffering by viewing others and image bearers in need of redemption. A great darkness has taken over the green, but we must remember there is only one Lord of the green and He reigns righteously. His name is Jesus, the Son of Man.

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Christian Hope: More than a Feeling

Hello, readers!

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while and for that, I apologize. My focus has been on completing the semester in seminary and transitioning to my relatively new ministry role as a youth pastor. This semester has been one of my more difficult seasons of life due to the many transitions I have experienced. For some time now I have been reading and meditating on Ephesians. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a student about Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix series) and we discussed the hope that Christian teenagers have contrasted with  Hannah Baker’s  perceived lack of hope. This post is the result of a conversation with one of my students and my own need to be reminded of the hope found in Jesus.

In 2016 Tenth Avenue North released the song, I have this hope”The song is based on Isaiah 43:1-3 wherein God reminded His people that He redeemed them and would not leave them. Jesus made a similar promise to his disciples and gave us the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-19)  Religion is not the “opium of the people” as Karl Marx claimed. All of us were created to worship and for relationships with God and others. Christian hope is based on the objectivity of Jesus’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul prayed that Ephesian Christians would “be enlightened and know the hope of His calling and the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:18)  Paul’s rich prayer and confident trust in God should challenge the way we pray today. I will focus specifically on Paul’s prayer that the Ephesian Christians would know the hope of Jesus’s call.

Defining Terms

Reflection upon Paul’s prayer demands that we must consider how the terms know, hope, and calling are used in this passage. I am providing you with the lexical definitions from the original language.

Know: To grasp the meaning of something, understand, recognize, come to know, experience. (BDAG, οἶδα) More research is needed to determine why Paul used this term rather than other options. Hope is one aspect of the new reality inaugurated by Christ. Contrary to the view that nothing can be known I posit that there are some things that can be known and true. (See F. Leroy Forlines in The Quest For Truth, 1-2. Forlines states, “The culture which denies that Truth exists or is accessible is in desperate need of truth.”) Paul wanted his readers to comprehend and experience the reality of Jesus’s resurrection so they might experience hope.

Hope: This term has been overused and has taken on a completely different meaning in the English language than it was used in Paul’s time. We often say things like, “I hope you have a great day” or “I hope you do well on your exam” or “I hope things will all work out”. When we use the term hope we are referring to a feeling or expectation that something will happen. Paul has a different usage in mind.

Hope refers to Christian expectation rooted in the Gospel and promise of the resurrection. (BDAG, ἐλπὶς) Weeks could be spent examining each passage in the Old and New Testaments to better understand the believer’s hope but that will be reserved for another time. Paul’s desire is that the Ephesian Christians and we will comprehend with our total persons the certainty and result of God’s calling.

Calling: In contemporary language, this term has also been misused. Generally, God calls or elects disciples to make disciples. God’s appears mysterious at times but it doesn’t have to be. Paul’s prayer was that the Ephesian saints would know the hopeful implications of Jesus’s call.

BDAG defines call for verse 18 as “an invitation to an experience of special privilege and responsibility.” (BDAG,κλῆσις) What is the special privilege, you may be wondering? There are many special privileges reserved for those who have applied Jesus’s righteousness through faith, one being free access to the Father. Another privilege is that disciples are given the same authority Jesus had to effect God’s kingdom in the world.

Having defined the terms know, hope, and call we proceed to consider what makes Christian hope distinct from other forms of hope.

What makes Christian hope distinct?

Christian hope is grounded in the Gospel, the person and work of Jesus, and the promise of future resurrection. Whereas earthly “hope” relies upon feelings, Christian hope depends upon objective truth. As Christians, we must remember the difference between joy and happiness. Our hope is not grounded in our feelings but in God’s sovereignty and character.

Suffering is depicted throughout the Biblical narrative but we sometimes forget that it is a normal part of life for the believer. When we suffer we are quick to blame God while ignoring the countless promises that suffering is a natural part of our lives as disciples. (Read 1 Peter in its entirety.) We forget that when “Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” (Bonhoeffer) When doubt feels bigger than faith we must remind ourselves of God’s promises revealed in His Word. Feelings let us down but objective truth grounded in Jesus and the Gospel never will.

Paul expressed that Jesus’s resurrection is the foundation for Christian hope. (1 Corinthians 15)  This makes our hope distinct. I am convinced there is more evidence that Jesus existed, was crucified, and risen than there is to support that he did not. If all of God’s promises find their yes in Jesus we should look no further than the Gospel as a source of hope.

Now that I have defined key terms and briefly discussed elements that distinguish Christian hope, I will conclude with some ways we can overcome despair or hopelessness today.

Overcoming Hopelessness through the Gospel

I don’t know about you but I can become discouraged and forget the hope found in Jesus. Multiple situations challenge our hope including cancer, unsaved family members, addictions, or even church conflict. Our hope is found God’s word, the Bible. It is living and active and does not put us to shame. (Romans 8:24-25)  I too struggle to remember the hope of Jesus’s calling but I have found the following steps helpful in transforming hopelessness.

  1. Commit to daily prayer even you have been slacking. You are God’s child through faith in Jesus. Prayer changes us and further molds us into the image of Christ.
  2. Find a local church to invest in. We were not meant to be Christians alone. There are NO lone ranger Christians. We need each other. Joining a local body of believers enables us to give and receive grace.
  3. Be transparent with safe people in your life. Not all persons are safe people and we cannot share our deepest thoughts and feelings with everyone. Even so, we all need accountability. Depression vanishes in the context of vulnerable and transparent people who give and receive grace regularly.
  4. Reject that the lie that you cannot be depressed and Christian at the same time. As Protestants, we do a poor job of meeting people where they are even if they are in the “dark night of the soul”. Sometimes we can pray the paint off the walls and do all the spiritual disciplines but still have despair. It’s okay to not be okay, brothers and sisters. Your problem may be spiritual but it could also be a mind problem. Thankfully God has given us tools such as Christian counseling to strengthen our total personhood.

I am praying that all of you will know the love of Jesus and will be reminded of the hope found in his Gospel. Thank you for reading!

 

 

Why Seminary?

I answered the call to preach in my early teenage years. I must define what I mean by “call”. God does not always reveal an individual’s calling in the same manner as mine was revealed. The short version of the story goes like this:

When I was a teenager at youth camp I listened to a powerful sermon from the camp evangelist. I don’t remember much of his sermon, but I do remember one thing he said. “Some of you need to bring Jesus your blank sheet of paper and allow him to write on the lines what he would have you to do.” In that moment I knew God was calling me to some kind of full-time ministry, even though I didn’t really understand that at the time.

You should know that I served in a nursing home ministry shortly after I became redeemed. My first ministry experience was leading devotionals at the local nursing home on Sunday mornings. I never knew those early Sunday mornings would contribute to my eventual calling to ministry.

After I answered the call to ministry I began to be more involved in church. Landmark Free Will Baptist Church in Hamilton, Alabama. Each month the fourth Sunday night was deemed youth night. The youth pastor and youth conducted the entire service. My responsibility was to bring the message. (Thank you Landmark for putting up with all those bad sermons!) That experience played a key role in my current ministry.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. After graduation I decided that I would attend Free Will Baptist Bible College, which was renamed to Welch College in 2012. Some well meaning Christians asked me the following question, “If God called you to ministry, why are you going to school? Isn’t God’s call all you need?”

Well, I’m working on a master’s degree in preaching and I still answer this question on a regular basis. Sometimes I ask myself the very same question, “Why Seminary?” Here are some of my reflections on this question.

  1. God’s genuine calling on me is a result of his grace. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to young Timothy, “I thank God that he has counted me, the least of the apostles, worthy to proclaim the Good News.”
  2. Scripture can be understood and studied by all. School gives me tools to better interpret God’s word. I have learned so much about Bible study that I would not have otherwise learned.
  3. Many pastors have said to me, “I would love to have the opportunity you have been given to continue your theological studies.” I have been impacted greatly by faithful under-shepherds who never went to school, yet all of them have encouraged me to prepare for ministry rather than just jumping in. Theological training, whether through the academy, or through mentoring relationships is a necessity for pastors. How can pastors defend the flock if they do not know the Gospel themselves?
  4. Personal passion and commitment to the church. Shortly after my conversion I developed a deep love for the church-how it functions, what it represents, and it’s purpose in the world. Jesus loved the church so much he died for it. I love the church and desire to commit all my days to serving King Jesus and making disciples.
  5. Encouragement from others. So many have supported me throughout my academic journey. Many have told me, “Dustin, you can do this. You have the God-given ability.” God has blessed me with the ability to think and reason out my faith and I do not want His gift to be wasted.

I’m Not Saying…

  • Seminary is necessary for pastoral ministry. It is helpful though.
  • Uneducated pastor’s are ineffective in the Lord’s work. I think it’s amazing to see how the Holy Spirit works through normal people. God didn’t call the mighty of this world but the weak. This does not mean we shouldn’t try to better ourselves as we labor for King Jesus.
  • I want to spend the rest of my life in school.
  • I’m better than others because of my theological training.

Each day I am learning to value this season of preparation. Maybe sometime we can have a conversation about my journey, God’s work of grace in me, and why I love NOBTS.

Thank you Andy Stidham for giving me opportunities to preach when I was a teenager. Thank you Mark Collier for your pastor’s heart. Thank you Joe Tolbert for encouraging me to love Jesus and the mundane tasks of everyday ministry. Thank you Landmark FWB Church for supporting me through this journey. Thank you Winfield FWB for sending me out as a laborer of the Harvest. Thank you Jesus for calling me and equipping me for Kingdom work. I’m blessed to be seminary student.

 

I’m Going to Cuba and Need Your Help

 

Hello everyone! It has been some time since my last post. I do apologize about that. It has been a great semester and as you can imagine it has also been extremely busy.

I have some exciting news to tell you, in case you haven’t heard. I have been approved to go on a short-term mission trip this summer to Cuba with Free Will Baptist International Missions. I’m excited about this trip! Our trip will be August 4-15th 2016.

In order for me to go, I need to raise prayer and financial support. Some of you might have received a support letter, either by email or mail. I have put this post together for those who haven’t heard about my trip.

I’m excited about this opportunity to serve and learn more about discipleship, missions, and youth ministry in Cuba. Please begin praying for me and the CMP team now!

Excerpts from my support letter

This August I will have an opportunity to serve on a short-term mission trip to Cuba. My team and I will be partnering with Cuban leaders at the annual youth conference. Many Cuban young people are very dedicated to the Lord. This annual youth camp is hosted by our Free Will Baptist Seminary in Pinar del Rio. Our theme for this camp is, “Renew your mind, guarding your heart”, based on Proverbs 4:23. I am excited about this important opportunity!

My first experience in Cuba was March 2014, where I served with a team from Welch College. God gave me a heart for the Cuban people. I experienced worship, evangelism, and the life of a missionary for ten days. My first trip to Cuba was life changing and I know my return trip will be as well!

Please join me in prayer for the Cuba CMP trip this August. In order to participate in this trip, I am asking for your prayer and financial support. I need to raise $2,100.00 by June 1 in order to go on this trip. There are a few ways you can support me financially:

  1. Log on to the International Missions website and give a tax deductible gift to my account using this link: http://www.fwbgo.com/student-missions/student-details/id,783/dustin-walters
  2. Mail a check to Free Will Baptist International Missions at P.O Box 5002 Antioch, TN 37011. In the memo line please write, “Dustin Walters, CMP”.

Your gift of any amount will be appreciated but if you can give in increments of $25, $50, or $100 amounts it will be especially helpful. Please respond soon if you intend on giving since I will need to raise these funds as soon as possible. 

Thank you for faithfully supporting me through prayer and finances! You have played an important role in my Christian walk and preparation for full-time vocational ministry. I thank God for your partnership in the Gospel! (Philippians 1:4-6)

If you’re interested in supporting me, please contact me at dustinwaltersfwb@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Choosing the Kingdom: Between Two Worlds

Every day we choose whether we will focus on Christ and his kingdom or on the temporary people, places, and events of this world. Sometimes we overemphasize one or the other in a single day. As Christians you and I must seek balance-we are to prioritize Christ and his kingdom, while not neglecting earthly responsibilities.

Luke 10:38-42 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. This is the New Testament passage I chose to write my first exegetical paper on, as a freshman at Welch College. I have preached sermons on this passage multiple times. God is continuing to use this passage to mold me into his image.

The Text

In this passage we read about two sisters who were uniquely a part of Jesus’ ministry. Martha and Mary were friends of Jesus and were sisters of Lazarus. (John 12) You are all likely familiar with the text, but let’s take a closer look.

38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Martha invited Jesus and his disciples into her home. We first consider her motive-why did she invite Jesus over for lunch? Was she simply being kind or was she in some way trying to impress Jesus? The latter option seems highly probable given the nature of her humanity. We don’t want to read into the text but it seems natural to question Martha’s motives.

Mary listened intently to Jesus’ teaching. This is one example of Jesus’ redefining culture. Culturally women were not permitted to sit at the feet of a teacher, especially a rabbi. Jesus did not stop Mary from listening to his teaching, though. While Martha was busy in the kitchen, her sister Mary simply sat at Jesus’ feet.

Martha asked Jesus to call her sister out. She was serving alone and wanted everyone to know it.

Do we ever serve simply to draw attention to ourselves? We don’t usually admit it, but in our pride we want everyone to know all the good deeds we do. Jesus reminds us that we should not do good deeds for the praise of man. 

Jesus did not scold Mary as Martha expected. He did not condemn Martha’s actions either. He simply said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (good part=good portion in Greek, merida) Our deeds and service are important from a kingdom perspective but we must ensure that we balance service (earthly in nature) and reflection/mediation (spiritual in nature).

Some Dangers

It can be easy for us to read a passage like this and walk away with false interpretations. As Christians we do not advocate for a strict dichotomy between the material and spiritual world. We believe Christ is Lord of both. Michael Horton articulates it this way,

“But we need not choose between these two kingdoms. Citizens of both, we carry out our vocations in the church and the world in distinct ways through distinct means. We need not “Christianize” culture in order to appreciate it and participate in it with the gifts that God has given us as well as our non-Christian neighbors. Though called to be faithful in our callings until Christ returns, with Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10, hcsb).”

We do not want to neglect earthly responsibilities, but we do want to prioritize the Kingdom. That seems to be Luke’s purpose in including the Mary/Martha narrative in his gospel.

We must make God’s Kingdom a priority.

You and I are a people of the Kingdom. We have been delivered from the Kingdom of darkness (even though we still feel its presence!) and have been transferred to the Kingdom of God through Christ. (Colossians 1:13-14) We must become a people who set our minds on thinks above, while not neglecting things below. (Colossians 3:1-2)

In some sense we are between two worlds. There is present aspect to Christ’s reign but there is also a “not yet” aspect. The whole creation does not willingly submit to his lordship. As we await Christ’s return and consumption of the Kingdom, let us not neglect earthly responsibilities such as homework, work, and getting tasks done, but let us also prioritize God’s kingdom.

Becoming Kingdom Minded: Some Practical Steps

  1. Prioritize God’s word, prayer, meditation, and discipleship.
  2. Intentionally pursue and develop relationships with others. (Some we will share the Gospel with and others we will encourage in their sanctification.)
  3. Be obedient to the task God has appointed. Whatever you do do all to God’s glory. Stop viewing your earthly responsibilities as a curse. (I’m preaching to myself as well.)
  4. Prayerfully ask Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit to build the kingdom. “Our Father in heaven..let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6)
  5. Seek community through local church and relationship building.

These are just a few thoughts on making God’s kingdom a priority. My prayer is that my life will be centered around Christ and his kingdom. Peter reminds us that while we are between two worlds there is significant reason to have hope-Christ is building his kingdom and we are given an opportunity to join him in Kingdom building.

11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13, NASB)

To my readers,

Thank you for reading my posts with patience and consistency. I hope to be posting with more regularity in the future but for now, I’ll just post when I can. Your support of my ministry is an encouragement to me!

Let It Be Said of Us

There she stands in ragged clothes and pleads for money. People pass her by. People ridicule and mock her for living on the streets. Very few passers by asked her about her story. They simply walked away in scorn. But you see, everyone has a story.

She was a single mother and victim of domestic abuse. She only wanted enough money to feed her children and pay for a cheap hotel room. She just wanted to get by. She just wanted to make it through another day. After she became the victim of domestic violence she became homeless. She reached out to her church and asked for help and didn’t get any. She reached out to her family as well but they responded similarly to the church.

Her life was characterized by brokenness. She just needed some help. She needed Christ to set her free from the chains of abuse, prostitution, and fear. Her story is real and must not be ignored.

My room mate and I met her outside our local Wal-Mart. We were simply returning a Red Box when God put her in our path. My room mate obeyed the Holy Spirit and began engaging S. in conversation and ministry. God appointed this encounter for sure. She was at her wits end and we were able to be messengers of grace.

She still needs your prayer. She needs your support. She needs your love. Most of all, she needs to see Christ in you.

Helpless people are all around us. It can be easy for us to look on the least of these with scorn because of our perception of them. Let it not be said that Christians do not genuinely love others. Let it not be said of us that we ignore God’s leading to help others.

Helping others requires action, not merely words. She had been attending a mega church in the city since 2008. When she tried to get out of her domestic violence situation she became homeless. She asked the church for help but was given none. My heart breaks for a church whose congregants can’t meet with the pastor because he’s too booked up. My heart breaks for a church who fails to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Let it be said of us as believers that we love others just as Christ loved us. (Mark 10:45, John 3:17) Let it be said of us that Christ shines through us.  Steve Fry has articulated this well in his song, “Let it be said of us”.

Let it be said of us
We were marked by forgiveness
We were known by our love
And delighted in meekness
We were ruled by his peace
Heeding unity’s call
Joined as one body
That Christ would be seen by all

Fellow Christians, it is our duty to reflect Christ to a broken world. Let us come before His throne pleading for mercy. Brothers and sisters let your light shine so others will see Jesus and glorify the father.

Puritan Spirituality in The Valley of Vision

In my last post I shared who influenced me to read and enjoy Puritan writings. In this post I will share why I enjoy reading the Puritans. Arthur Bennett provides us with a helpful glance into Puritan prayers and devotion in his work The Valley of Vision.

Who is Arthur Bennett?

Arthur Bennet was born on May 15, 1915 in Southern Rotherham, England. He left school at the age of fourteen to assist his father at a local barber shop. During his teenage years he reportedly head singing as he passed by the Citadel. At the end of the service the “call” was given and Arthur was saved. He eventually sensed God calling him into pastoral ministry. Brother Bennett developed a deep love for the Puritans and their spirituality as he studied. His study on Puritan spirituality soon became a part of his own spirituality. The more he studied Puritan spirituality, the more he sought to employ it into his own Christian walk. Tony Reinke has written a helpful biographical essay which can be found here.

Puritans included in The Valley of Vision (VoV, hereafter)

This work is a compilation of Puritan prayers and devotions. Bennett includes works from the following:

  • Thomas Shepherd
  • Thomas Watson
  • Richard Baxter
  • John Bunyan
  • Isaac Watts
  • William Williams
  • Philip Doddridge
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • Augustus Toplady
  • and others (see viii in VoV for a complete listing)

Puritan Spirituality Depicted in VoV

Bennett opens the work with the following prayer, which powerfully demonstrates what Puritan spirituality is all about. The VoV is based on Isaiah 22:1, which states, “The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” (KJV)

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy starts shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.

Whole posts can be devoted to unpacking the theological truth contained within the stanzas of this prayer. My purpose here, however, is to give you a glimpse of Puritan spirituality. So here are some characteristics, as demonstrated above and in most Puritan writings.

Puritan spirituality humbly considers who God is. 

Authentic spirituality begins with a proper understanding of God. Culture can attempt to define who God is but it will fall miserably short. Scripture provides us with ample descriptions of Yahweh and what makes him distinct from false gods. Jesus, the God-Man, is the perfect reflection or as the writer of Hebrews says, “The exact imprint of the divine nature.” Spirituality is worship. Our worship, love, and obedience to God only increases when we behold his glory. (Go back and read the opening lines of the prayer. It’s similar to the Lord’s prayer, which begins in adoration.)

Puritan spirituality honestly reflects who we are.

When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he fell down at Yahweh’s feet because of his unholiness. (Isaiah 6) Puritans often emphasized the importance of mortification (dying to sin) and vivification (coming to life in Christ). Some people (New Agers and others) have bought into the lies that we are basically good. Puritan spirituality takes interest in self-assessment. Oh how we need this kind of self-assessment in our own lives!

Puritan spirituality demonstrates the purity of God’s word. 

Personal experience is important but should be tested against God’s word. Puritans relied on the Bible for faith and practice. They were ordinary means of grace people. They didn’t base their spirituality on the latest fad but on the liberating truth found within the pages of Holy Scripture. Puritans saw God’s word as sufficient for their own spirituality. You and I can be encouraged by this. (To have more of the Spirit we must have more of the word.) Puritans trusted the Bible as sufficient for their Christian pilgrimage. We should too.

Puritan spirituality warms the heart and challenges the mind. 

There’s a lot of attention give to spirituality in our culture. For more on that, check out this article in ONE magazine. We read of people dying, going to heaven or hell and returning to tell the world about it. We do not need all of that to validate our spirituality. Puritans understood the substance of spirituality, namely Christ.

When it comes to spirituality people tend to pick and choose what they want. Frankly, I get tired of seeing fake spirituality in the culture around me when I know there’s something better. I find encouragement by reading the Puritan writings. Puritan writings take us back to our roots-namely to Christ and to Scripture. When I read these works my heart is warmed and my mind is challenged.

I love reading the Puritans. I’m sure my post hasn’t done justice to the vast treasures found within Puritan spirituality, but I hope to have wet your appetite a bit.

Lord, teach us to love, obey, and worship you as we go through the Valley of Vision. Confirm us to the image of Christ. Plant in our hearts a desire to worship you in Spirit and in Truth. Teach us to worship through your word, just as the Puritans did.