The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘new year

The turn of the year

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The turn of the year is a good time to look back and to look ahead. In times past, many healthy Christians would use significant seasons – the new year, for example, or a birthday, or the anniversary of one’s conversion (if known) – to pause and to ponder the course of their lives. It was for them, and could be for us, a season of searching self-examination. It was a means of doing their souls much good. There are sermons and books by men like Stephen Charnock, Henry Scudder and Jonathan Edwards, designed to prompt and assist in this process.

It is unlikely that you will simply find the time to engage in such activity. You will have to make the time. You will need deliberately to think about your ways and turn your feet back to God’s testimonies (Ps 119.59). I would encourage you to make and take the time necessary, to invest the energy required, in such a season. The following outline might help.

To begin with, there must be review. Those who keep a diary or journal might find that flicking through the entries helps refresh the memory. For others, it might be as simple as looking back over a year of calendar entries. We ought to look beyond a mere record of activity, and think about the ebbs and flows of the year, the spiritual realities that underpin the outward engagement. Where was I? What was I doing? How was I doing? What battles did I fight? What defeats did I suffer or what victories did I win? In what service did I engage? But there are also plans for the future. What lies ahead? Perhaps more of a preview, this, or at least a review of your intentions and expectations. What are the opportunities before you? What distinct challenges or particular privileges do you anticipate? What battles must you fight? Where have you been beaten back but intend to forge ahead?

This element is not mere rehearsal. We must also reflect on our life. We must think over those questions. We must ponder carefully the manner and motives of our walking through this fallen world. What are the high points and the low points? Have we made progress? Are there patterns of sin that have been entrenched or besieged? Will you, in future days, assault such sins? If so, when and how? Are there habits of righteousness that have been strengthened or undermined? Will you, in the coming year, pursue such habits? If so, by what means and with what strength? Like John Newton, we have come through many dangers, toils and snares, and many more lie ahead. What has been and what will be the overall tenor of my life? How has the Lord dealt with me, and how have I dealt with the Lord? How could or should that change, from my side, in the days ahead. Consider that you are a year closer to death, and every day carries you closer to the giving of an account and, for the saints, a reward. Are you stepping, day by day, closer to glory?

With such substance in your heart, you will find much in which to rejoice. It is vitally important that you do so. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thes 5.16-18). Perhaps it has been a year of serious trials. If so, Christian, God has never left you or forsaken you. You have never been separated from him; you have not fallen out of his hands; he has made all things work together for good for you. Perhaps there have been painful chastisements. If so, believer, it is because God loves you and treats you like a son. If you have been wise, you will have learned God’s statutes through your affliction. No doubt there have been incalculable blessings, measured first against your true deservings. As creatures, you have been given life and breath and all things. As sinners, God has not removed his grace from us. As sons, he has lavished good things upon us in measures that the most generous earthly father cannot begin to match. How good God has been to us! What mercies has he shown to you? What blessings have been poured out? How much pain and sorrow has been withheld from you, how much of pleasure and profit has been dispensed? If you are not a believer, you have been spared death and hell, and – even by virtue of reading such an article as this – have been reminded that the Lord is patient and longsuffering, and now calls all men everywhere to repent, holding out Christ to the repenting sinner.

And we must repent. The finest saint you know is a mass of corruption. Whatever progress you have made this year, you have not attained perfection. Far from it! Your reflective review, if honest, must reveal a host of sins of omission and a horde of sins of commission. By the first, we refer to all those things that you should have done but have failed to do. By the second, we mean all those things you ought not to have done but nevertheless have done. What a fearful catalogue of transgression is the best life! Now is a time to heap up all your sins and iniquities and transgressions and come again to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, to the cleansing flood which makes the foulest clean. We must come to the God who says that though our sins are scarlet, he can make them as white as snow. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all trangression. Now is a good time for deep and honest soul-searching, to examine ourselves in the mirror of the Word and come humbly and honestly before the Lord, seeking mercy and forgiveness. Such a spirit is itself a test of our spiritual state: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1Jn 1.8–10)

It is also a good season to reorient ourselves. We are fools if we imagine that our sense of eternity is not constantly being eroded in a world which lives for the here and now. A flood of distractions and diversions constantly demands our attention, and we lose sight of the things which are eternal. We hear, each day, countless carnal sermons. The world is badgering us to think, speak and act in a way acceptable to the unconverted crowd. Now is a good time to draw back a little from that rushing tide, to slip into an eddy and ask about the direction of our lives. What principles guide us? What precepts govern us? What patterns do we follow? Again, the psalmist thought about his ways and turned his feet back to God’s testimonies. There was a sense not only that he had, at points, departed from the way, but that he intended to get back into the way. Have you been listening to much to the voices that charm but deceive? By what standards will you now judge and by what system will you now travel?

Then, with all this in mind, resolve to walk with God and work for God. This cannot be a matter of mere human strength. It must be a dependent determination. Think again of how often the poet of Psalm 119 weaves together his absolute dependence on God and his absolute determination in God. Consider some sample statements: “With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!” (v10); “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (v32); “Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth” (v88). Will you blend such elements in your heart and life? Will you cry out to the Lord to make his Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (v105), and commit to restrain your feet from every evil way, that you may keep his word (v101)? Too many will enter upon the new year with vague desires that perhaps the Lord will make things better. Many are marked by a pietistic passivity that wishes to be holy but will not work for holiness. The true child of God recognises that without Christ he can do nothing, but that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. We must abide in Christ to bear fruit. We must seek the fruit of the Spirit as we abide in Christ.

You can see that such a process is not the matter of a moment. We need to set aside time for such an engagement, to review from our Bibles our way in and through this world. We must wrestle to look at time – past, present and future – through the lens of eternity. We must be rigorously honest, however painful such honesty might be. We must be profoundly humble, however troubling such humility might be. We must turn again to God in Christ, and gaze upon him until we see things as they are, and not as we or others might wish them to be. If we do this, we should not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2Cor 4.16-18). With such a perspective, we can sing with the old poet, Augustus Toplady,

Kind Author, and Ground of my hope,
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow;
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defence Thou hast proved;
Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally loved!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Sunday 31 December 2017 at 09:43

Posted in Christian living

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‘Tis the season for procrastination

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The turn of the year – like a birthday or other significant anniversary – can be an appropriate time for review and reflection, for the making or making fresh of a covenant with the Lord. Such times can be helpful waymarkers in our pilgrimage, and it is not wrong to harness the sense of significance that such occasions present.

But we ought to make sure that such occasions do not become for us excuses, a means of assuaging our consciences by the promise that we will reform another time. Extravagant promises for tomorrow are worth nothing compared with definite obedience today. If something ought to be done, then it ought to be done now, and not postponed until tomorrow.

Read the rest at Reformation21.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 30 December 2013 at 12:20

Spurgeon’s best wishes for the new year

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I pass on a Spurgeonic, Pyromaniacal, set of prayerful best wishes for the new year:

Southey, in his “Solemn Thoughts for New Year’s-day,” bids the melancholy moraliser gather a dark and wintry wreath to engarland the sepulchre of time, “for” saith he,

“I pour the dirge of the departed days—
For well the funeral song
Befits this solemn hour.”

His muse is, however, interrupted in its sombre meditations by the delightful peals which hail “the consecrated day,” and the poet exclaims—

“But hark! even now the merry bells ring round
With clamorous joy to welcome in this day.”

The interruption was most opportune: “the dark-stoled maid of melancholy, with stern and frowning front,” may very fitly be dismissed until a more convenient season, for there is much that is cheery and exhilarating in the advent of “that blithe morn which ushers in the year.” Hope, earth’s one abiding angel, whispers of happiness now arriving, and makes our sluggish blood leap in our veins at the thought of the good new year. We feel like sailors who have finished one voyage and are commencing another amidst hurrahs and joyous shoutings: we are full of anticipation of the future, and are relieved by the departure of the past. The kindly salutation, “I wish you a happy new year,” rings sweetly with lingering chimes of Christmas, and harmonises well with the merry peals which bid adieu to the departed, and welcome the coming Son of Time. The vision of thought in which we see “the skirts of the departing year,” is viewed with sober cheerfulness, and the foresight of better days to come fills the house with social glee.

Human nature is so fascinated with the bare idea of novelty, that although time runs on like a river in whose current there is an unbroken monotony, yet the arbitrary landmarks which man has erected upon the shore, exercise a bewitching power over the imagination, and make us dream that on a New Year’s morning the waves of time roll onward with a fresher force, and flash with a brighter sheen. There is no real difference between the first of January and any other day in the calendar—the first of May is lovelier far—and yet because of its association with a new period, it is a day of days, the day of the year, first among three hundred and more of comrades.

Evermore let it be so. If it be a foible to observe the season, then long live the weakness. We prize the pensive song in its season, but we are not among those “to whom all sounds of mirth are dissonant.” The steaming flagon which our ancestors loved so well to drain, the lambs’ wool, and the wassail bowl are as well forgotten, and other of their ancient New Year’s customs are more honoured in the breach than in the observance; but not so the cheerful greetings and warm good wishes so suitable to the hour. We feel jubilant at the prospect of the coming day, and are half inclined to sing a verse or two of the old wassail ballad, and pass our hat round for our Orphan House.

“God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress too,
And all the little children
That round the table go.

Good master and mistress,
While you’re sitting by the fire,
Pray think of those poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.”

English life has too little of cheerful observance and festive anniversary to relieve its dulness; there are but two real breaks in the form of holidays in the whole twelve months of toil; birth-days and new-year’s-days are at least semi-festivals, let them be kept up by all means, and celebrated by every family. Strew the path of labour with at least a few roses, for thorns are plentiful enough. Never may we cease to hail with pleasure the first day of the first month, which is the beginning of months unto us. Let not old Time turn over another page of eternity and truth, and find his children indifferent to the solemnity, or ungrateful for the longsuffering which permits them to enjoy their little span of life.

If others decline to unite with us, we are, nevertheless, not ashamed to confess that we adhere to the cheerful custom, and find it not inconsistent with the spirit of the church of God. We meet together at the last hour of the year, and prayerfully await the stroke of midnight, that we may consecrate the first moment of the new year with notes of holy song; then, having dropped each one of us his offering into the treasury of the Lord, we return to our homes in the clear frosty air, blessing the Preserver of men that we have shared in the devotions of one more watchnight, and have witnessed the birth of another year of grace.

If we do not hasten to the houses of our friends with presents and congratulations, as our lively French neighbours are wont to do, yet, with many an honest grip of the hand and cordial greeting, we utter our good wishes and renew our friendships; and then in our private devotions we “breathe low the secret prayer, that God would shed his blessing on the head of all.”

Nor does the influence of our midnight worship end with the motion of our minds towards friendly well-wishing, for the devout are quickened in the way of godly meditation, and led to prepare for that day of days for which all other days were made. Returning from the solemn meeting we have felt as he did who wrote—

“The middle watch is past! Another year
Dawns on the human race with hope and fear:
The last has gone with mingled sigh and song,
To join for ever its ancestral throng;
And time reveals
As past it steals,
The potent hand of God, the Everlasting,
Guiding the sun, with all his blazing peers,
And filling up the measure of our years,
Until Messiah, Prince, to judgment hasting,
Shall roll the darkness from this world of sin,
And bid a bright eternity begin.”

Wisdom is not content with sentiment and compliment, but would fain gather solid instruction: she admires the flowers, but she garners the wheat, and therefore she proposes the enquiry, “What is the message of the New Year to the watchers who listen so silently for the bell which strikes the twelfth hour of the night?”

O thou newly-sent prophet, hearken to the question of the wise, and tell us what is the burden of thy prophecy! We are all waiting; teach us, and we will learn! We discern not thy form as thou passest before our faces, but there is silence, and we hear thy voice, saying, “Mortals, before ye grow weary of me, and call me old and long, as ye did the year which has passed, I will deliver to you my tidings. As a new year, I bring with me the promise of new mercies, like a golden casket stored with jewels.

God will not forget you. The rock of your salvation changes not; your Father who is in heaven will still be gracious to you. Think not because the present is wintry, that the sun will never shine, for I have in store for you both the lovely flowers of spring and the ripe fruits of summer, while autumn’s golden sheaves shall follow in their season. The black wing of the raven shall vanish, and the voice of the turtle shall be heard in your land. Providence has prepared surprises of gladness for the sorrowful; unexpected boons will it cast into the lap of the needy; therefore let hope, like a dove, bear to the mourner the olive branch of peace, for the waters of grief shall be assuaged.

Fresh springs shall bubble up amid the wastes, and new-lit stars shall cheer the gloom; the angel of Jehovah’s presence goes before you, and makes the desert blossom as the rose. He who makes all things new will send his mercies new every morning, and fresh every evening, for great is his faithfulness.

Yet boast not yourselves of to-morrow, nor even make sure of to-day, for I forewarn you of new trials and novel difficulties. In the unknown future, the days of darkness shall be many; rains will descend, floods will arise, and winds will blow, and blessed shall he be whose house is built upon a rock. Crosses will be laid upon you for every hour, and cares will molest every day. Pilgrims of earth, ye must hold yourselves ready to traverse thorny ways, which your feet have not trodden heretofore; have your loins well girt about you, lest the trials of the wilderness should come upon you unawares. Your road leads o’er the barren mountain’s storm-vex’d height, and anon it dives into the swampy sunless valleys, and along it all you must bear more or less of affliction’s heavy load; arm yourselves with patience and faith, for you will need them every step of the march to “Jerusalem the Golden.” So surely as “the wintry wind moans deep and hollow o’er the leafless grove,” tribulation will await you frequently, for man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Adversity is an estate entailed upon the sons of Adam. Learn this before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may not be surprised with any amazement.

Be not, O children of God, dismayed at my message, neither let your harps be hung upon the willows, for I bring you tidings of new grace, proportionate to all your needs. Great is the strength which your covenant God will give you in the hour of your weakness, so great indeed that if all the afflictions of all mankind should meet upon the head of any one of you, he should yet be more than a conqueror through the mighty Lord who hath loved him. Onward, soldiers of the cross, where Jesus has led the way. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath you are the everlasting arms. You are not called upon to go a warfare at your own charges, neither are you left alone in the battle: the banner which waves over you bears the soul-assuring motto, ‘Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide.’

Labourer in the vineyard of the Lord Jesus, I bring to thee new opportunities for usefulness; I introduce thee to fresh fields of service. Many great and effectual doors shall be opened during the twelve months of my sojourn, and they who are wise to win souls shall have grace to enter. The moments as they fly, if taken upon the wing, shall yield a wealth of sacred opportunity: the frivolous shall ruin himself by suffering them to pass unheeded, while the watchful shall earn unto himself a good degree, by regarding the signs of the times and improving every occasion for promoting his Master’s glory.

Therefore, with earnest tones, I warn you that I bring new responsibilities, from which none of you can escape. For every golden moment you will be held responsible. O stewards of the manifold gifts of God, waste not your strength upon trifles, cast not away your priceless opportunities, fritter not away your precious hours: by the remembrance of eternity, I charge you live with an ardour of industry which will be worthy of remembrance in another world. O child of time, lay not up for thyself misery in the remembrance of misspent years, but live as in the presence of the all-seeing God. Believer in Jesus, gather jewels for his crown, and irradiate his name with glowing honours, so, as I pass away, thy record shall be on high, and thy reward in heaven. FAREWELL.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 31 December 2011 at 23:45

Posted in General

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In with the new?

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It is a new year.

Would you like a real change?

Would you like new surroundings?  A new house, a new room, or new clothes?

Would you like new relationships?  New friends, new colleagues, even a new family?

Would you like a new you?  A new appearance, enlargements and reductions, a new nose or chin, a new waistline, or renewed health?

Would you like a new life?  A completely fresh start, being a different person altogether, sweeping away everything that is, leaving it all behind, and starting over entirely?

One way or another, many of us would like – or may even long for – a makeover of some kind.  We would truly love to change something about us and our lives.

Most of these changes are – at best – what you might call ‘cosmetic.’  That is, they are mere changes in appearance, manipulating externals without ever altering reality.  As a result, they rarely make us happy.  If you like, many of the changes we try to make are like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic: making a doomed vessel more pleasing to the eye.

You probably know by experience that such changes make little lasting difference.  At best, they solve problems temporarily.  At worst, they lock us into a downward spiral of more and more extreme changes, each one more desperate, expensive, or humiliating than the last.  In either case, they present no final solution to problems.

Why is this?  It is because whatever you do and wherever you go and whenever you change outwardly, what you carry within you remains the same.  We carry our issues, our characters, our personalities, our problems, our sins, with us wherever we go.

What you need is the most radical change of all: an extreme makeover that lies utterly outside your own power of will or money to accomplish, but a change that will once-and-for-all alter everything about you for the better.  It is a change that begins on the inside and works its way out, radically altering in lasting fashion our thoughts, feelings, desires, words, and deeds.

new-leaf2

It is called “new creation.”   It begins with the essential you, the heart and soul of who and what you are, and – over the course of time – works itself through your whole being.  It is a new life that will reach its climax with a new body in a new heavens and a new earth.

Would you like such a change?  Do you long for an extreme makeover of this sort?  This is no gimmick or fable, no lie or scam.  This is God’s own truth, his free and sincere offer: “If anyone is in Christ,” says the Bible, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Would you like a fresh start?  There is nothing to pay, no forms to fill out, no waiting list, and guaranteed results.  Faith in Christ brings new life in him.  It is the only true solution to the otherwise empty search for a new you.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 1 January 2009 at 18:39

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