Archive for the Valley of Vision Category

God Our Help in Ages Past and Years To Come

Posted in Heaven, Hymns, John Bunyan, Puritans, Suffering, The Pilgrim's Progress, Valley of Vision on January 29, 2015 by kevinwilkening

My younger brother’s thirteen year old daughter, Eilise, has been diagnosed with a pinealblastoma: an aggressive brain tumor. After hanging up the phone, having heard the news through my brother’s breaking voice, and our short but meaningful tear-filled conversation, I was reminded once again of The Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory that was written by John Bunyan, and published in February 1678.

I began thinking particularly of a couple sections. First, when night is falling, and Christian has entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Christian finds himself in the middle of the valley amidst gloom and terror, but then he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Christian makes it through the night trusting that God is with him. Then, he leaves valley as the sun rises on a new day.

The second is when Christian and Hopeful, having just visited Vanity Fair, are traveling along a particularly rough section of road. They leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow. However, there is a rainstorm that forces them to spend the night, and in the morning, they are captured by Giant Despair who takes them to his Doubting Castle where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The Giant Despair wants them to commit suicide, but they endure his misery until Christian realizes that he has a key called Promise, which will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape. Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon some shepherds in the Delectable Mountains. And the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land.”

What a helpful allegory for the Christian life. I love The Pilgrim’s Progress for several reasons. However, the one I will highlight today is that this story reminds us that our lives are all pilgrimages, or journeys, or voyages. And all pilgrimages, journeys, or voyages have real danger, and put us in real peril. However, for the Christian, the peril is never experienced apart from God’s grace. Oh, for more grace!
valleyofvisionHere is a Puritan prayer entitled “Voyage.” I have posted this before. However, it is the prayer that I immediately think of when my friends or family find themselves in the midst of this life’s raging storms. So, today I pray this for my brother and his family, and to The Lord of the Oceans!

O Lord of the Oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady, thy Word secures safe passage, they grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed. This day will bring me nearer home, grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer, halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity (harshness) of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters. May the world this day be happier and better because I live.

Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross, and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.  Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

In the words of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” ~ O God, Our Help in Ages Past ~ by Isaac Watts, 1719.

My brother, may our faithful God grace you on your pilgrimage, and shelter you in the midst of your current storm.

God Our Help in Ages Past and Years To Come

Posted in Books, Grace, Heaven, John Bunyan, Mercy, Puritans, Suffering, The Pilgrim's Progress, Valley of Vision on March 15, 2013 by kevinwilkening

This has been a particularly difficult couple of weeks. My best friend’s father passed away. A good friend’s mother passed away. Yesterday, my sister-in-law’s father suffered a severe stroke and it looks like he may not make it through the day. In addition, last night the Neely’s one-month old son passed away. All of this sorrow and heartache has once again reminded me of The Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory that was written by John Bunyan, and published in February 1678.

I was thinking particularly of a couple sections. First, when night is falling, and Christian has entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Christian finds himself in the middle of the valley amidst gloom and terror, but then he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Christian makes it through the night trusting that God is with him. Then, he leaves valley as the sun rises on a new day.

The second is when Christian and Hopeful, having just visited Vanity Fair, are traveling along a particularly rough section of road. They leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow. However, there is a rainstorm that forces them to spend the night, and in the morning, they are captured by Giant Despair who takes them to his Doubting Castle where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The Giant Despair wants them to commit suicide, but they endure his misery until Christian realizes that he has a key called Promise, which will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape. Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon some shepherds in the Delectable Mountains. And the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land.”

What a helpful allegory for the Christian life! I love The Pilgrim’s Progress for many reasons. However, the reason screaming most loudly to me this morning is: our lives are all pilgrimages, or journeys, or voyages. And all pilgrimages, journeys, or voyages have real danger, and put us in real peril. However, for the Christian, the peril is never experienced apart from God’s grace and His enabling power. Oh, for more grace!

Here is a Puritan prayer entitled “Voyage.” I pray this for my friend, and to my God!

O Lord of the Oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady, thy Word secures safe passage, they grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed. This day will bring me nearer home, grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer, halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity (harshness) of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters. May the world this day be happier and better because I live.

Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross, and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.  Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

In the words of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” ~ O God, Our Help in Ages Past ~ by Isaac Watts, 1719.

My friends, may our faithful God grace you on your pilgrimage, and shelter you in the midst of your current storm.

Back After Distraction …

Posted in Communication, Distraction, Technology, Tim Challies, Valley of Vision, Writing on August 11, 2011 by kevinwilkening

After taking a three month sabbatical from blogging, Facebook posting, Twitter, and following over 100 blogs … I am back. Which begs the question: “Where have I been?”

It was three months ago that I read the book, “The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion” by Tim Challies (if you have not read it, I would highly recommend you do). It was then that I decided, without fanfare, to absence myself from my digital life. Namely, because distraction had become a way of life.

Paul Graham writes, “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out” (The Next Story, pg. 116). Technology was continually seeking me out, finding me wherever I was, and drawing me somewhere else. While all of these technological devices were allowing me to communicate with those who were far from me, it was at the expense of those closest to me – my wife, children, and church. I was beginning to be shaped by technology. Distraction was becoming my identity. I was losing my ability to focus; especially the ability to focus on the people I love.

Challies writes, “If we are a distracted people … it stands to reason that we would also be a distracted church, a church with a diminished ability to think deeply, to cultivate concentration, to emphasize slow, deliberate, thoughtful meditation (The Next Story, pg. 116).” He continues, “… we are quickly becoming people of shallow thoughts, and shallow thoughts lead to shallow living (The Next Story, pg. 117.)”

Distraction —-> Shallow Thinking —-> Shallow Living

So, over the past three months, I have spent time identifying and destroying distractions. I began eliminating everything that I could find that dulled my mind instead of sharpening it. I deleted RSS feeds, and subscriptions, and stopped following those who (in my own invented words, “twoted tweets that were not worthy being twoted”).  I have sought solitude from the daily barrage of distraction.

And now I am rejoining the digital age, but with intention and purpose. Data, information, and knowledge (terms defined in The Next Story) are to be turned into wisdom; the living out of knowledge.

Data —-> Information —-> Knowledge —-> Wisdom

Therefore, I am seeking to measure the input of information to my life. I am simplifying. I am seeking those things which will heighten my desire for God, and His Word. I want my digital intake to deepen my yearning for God, and not distract me from Him.

If wisdom (putting knowledge into practice) is the goal of all our collection information and knowledge, then this means that the information I publish to this digital world will look slightly different as well. It means that this blog will not be aimed at publishing for the masses. Rather, it will be aimed at encouraging the relationships closest to me; namely, my family and Christ’s church that meets at the building located at 2430 Neola Street, Cedar Falls, IA 50613. It means that meeting with people (both believers and unbelievers) will take priority over digitally publishing thoughts about meeting with people. It means that helping others will take priority over writing about helping people. It means, in short, the gospel has begun to redeem my distracted digital life.

May God be pleased to grant me grace to live undistracted for His glory!

Oh God, My Exceeding Joy,

Singing thy praises uplifts my heart, for thou art a fountain of delight, and dost bless the soul that joys in thee.

Because of my hearts rebellion I cannot always praise thee as I ought; Yet I will at all times rest myself in thy excellences, goodness, and loving-kindness.

Thou art in Jesus the object of inexpressible joy, and I take exceeding pleasure in the thought of thee.

But Lord, I am sometimes thy enemy; my nature revolts and wanders from thee.

Though thou hast renewed me, yet evil corruptions urge me still to oppose thee.

Help me to extol thee with entire heart-submission, to be diligent in self-examination, to ask myself whether I am truly born again, whether my spirit is the spirit of thy children, whether my griefs are those that tear repenting hearts, whether my joys are the joys of faith, whether my confidence in Christ works by love and purifies the soul.

Give me the sweet results of faith, in my secret character, and in my public life.

Cast cords of love around my heart, then hold me and never let me go.

May the Savior’s wounds sway me more tan the scepter of princes.

Let me love thee in a love that covers and swallows up all, that I may not violate my chaste union with the beloved; there is much unconquered territory in my nature, scourge out the buyers and sellers of my soul’s temple, and give me in return pure desires, and longings after perfect holiness.

A Puritan Prayer from “The Valley of Vision” pg. 344. 

Preparation for the Lord’s Table

Posted in Communion, Grace, John Owen, Puritans, The Lord's Table, Valley of Vision on June 4, 2010 by kevinwilkening

As we prepare ourselves for Sunday morning and our observance of the Lord’s Table, I was reminded that the grace that allows us to come to the Lord’s Table is a “purchased grace.”  Apart from Christ purchasing grace for us, we could not commune with our great God and Savior.  But, because Christ did purchase grace for us, and we are in Him, we have freedom to live in communion with Him as His people this Sunday morning.

What is “purchased grace?” Purchased grace is: all the righteousness and grace which Christ has obtained for us, or produced for us, or by any means makes us partakers of with Him, or imparts to us for our benefit . . . by anything that He has done, or He has suffered, or by anything He continues to do as Mediator on our behalf” (paraphrase of John Owen in Communion with the Triune God, pg. 271).

As God’s people, we are now in communion with God.  And because we are in Christ, there is almost nothing that Christ has done, but we are said to do with Him.  We are crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20); we are dead with Him (2 Timothy 2:11; Colossians 3:3); we have been made alive with Him (Colossians 2:13); we have risen with Him (Colossians 3:1); and we are made to sit with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5 – 6).  Therefore, because of Christ and His works on our behalf (His purchased grace for us), there is such a sure foundation laid for us that we are said to have done the same things with Christ.

What great life, and confidence, and power, and assurance does our union and communion with Christ give us?  Can any of us help but be amazed by the grace of God to us?

I would like the Puritan’s to lead us in a prayer that exalts the grace of God, and asks God for more of His grace.

The prayer is entitled, Amazing Grace (The Valley of Vision, pg. 110).

O Thou Giving God,

My heart is drawn out in thankfulness to thee, for thy amazing grace and condescension to me in influences and assistances of thy Spirit, for special help in prayer, for the sweetness of Christian service, for the thoughts of arriving in heaven, for always sending me needful supplies, for raising me to new life when I am like one dead.

I want not the favour of man to lean upon for thy favour is infinitely better.  Thou art eternal wisdom in dispensations toward me; and it matters not when, nor where, nor how I serve thee, nor what trials I am exercised with, if I might be prepared for thy work and will.

No poor creature stands in need of divine grace more than I do, and yet none abuses it more than I have done and still do.  How heartless and dull I am!

Humble me in the dust for not loving thee more.  Every time I exercise any grace renewedly I am renewedly indebted to thee, the God of all grace, for special assistance.  I cannot boast when I think how dependent I am upon thee for the being and every act of grace; I never do anything else but depart from thee, and if ever I get to heaven it will be because thou willest it, and for no reason beside.

I love, as a feeble, afflicted, despised creature, to cast myself on thy infinite grace and goodness, hoping for no happiness but from thee; give me special grace to fit me for special services, and keep me calm and resigned at all times, humble, solemn, mortified, and conformed to thy will.”

Grace Greater than All Our Sin by Julia Johnston in 1911.

Mavelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within.

Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.”

God Our Help in Ages Past and Years To Come

Posted in John Bunyan, Puritans, Suffering, The Pilgrim's Progress, Valley of Vision on January 13, 2010 by kevinwilkening

A great friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer yesterday. Hearing the news, I was reminded of The Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory that was written by John Bunyan, and published in February 1678.

I was thinking particularly of a couple sections.  First, when night is falling, and Christian has entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Christian finds himself in the middle of the valley amidst gloom and terror, but then he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Christian makes it through the night trusting that God is with him.  Then, he leaves valley as the sun rises on a new day.

The second is when Christian and Hopeful, having just visited Vanity Fair, are traveling along a particularly rough section of road.  They leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow.  However, there is a rainstorm that forces them to spend the night, and in the morning, they are captured by Giant Despair who takes them to his Doubting Castle where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The Giant Despair wants them to commit suicide, but they endure his misery until Christian realizes that he has a key called Promise, which will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape.  Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon some shepherds in the Delectable Mountains.  And the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land”.

What a helpful allegory for the Christian life!  I love The Pilgrim’s Progress for several reasons.  However, the one I will highlight is it reminds us that our lives are all pilgrimages, or journeys, or voyages. And all pilgrimages, journeys, or voyages have real danger, and put us in real peril. However, for the Christian, the peril is never experienced apart from God’s grace. Oh, for more grace!

Here is a Puritan prayer entitled “Voyage.” I pray this for my friend, and to my God!

O Lord of the Oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady, thy Word secures safe passage, they grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed. This day will bring me nearer home, grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer, halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity (harshness) of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters. May the world this day be happier and better because I live.

Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross, and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.  Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

In the words of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” ~ O God, Our Help in Ages Past ~ by Isaac Watts, 1719.

Friend, may our faithful God grace you on your pilgrimage, and shelter you in the midst of your current storm.

O Christ, Sovereign Commander of the Universe

Posted in Puritans, Suffering, Valley of Vision on January 12, 2010 by kevinwilkening

As some of you have already heard, my sister-in-law (the wife of my youngest brother) has been diagnosed with a mass behind her right eye. In the next week or two there will have to be a surgery to remove that mass. As I thought about my brother’s family, and all that God has placed before them at this time, my mind was drawn again to the Puritan prayers. The Puritans had the language to speak both of a wholly Sovereign God who commands all things, and the language to speak of our truly human emotions during times of distress and grief. The blessed doctrine of God’s sovereignty does not remove our very real experiences in this life. So here is doctrinally sound, yet highly emotion-filled prayer found in The Valley of Vision (a book of Puritan prayers).  This one is entitled Peril.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,

I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief, in a felt spiritual darkness. My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude, and I cannot act faith at all. My heavenly Pilot has disappeared, and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages; I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves, in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord, to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee, for better, for worse, without comfort, and all but hopeless.  Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind, morning of joy that comes after night of heaviness; water my soul richly with divine blessings; grant that I may welcome thy humbling in private so that I might enjoy thee in public; give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.

Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am vile as he; yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy, a trophy of redeeming power; in my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God, thy never-failing providence orders every event, sweetens every fear, reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good, brings real good out of seeming evil, makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon, to show me what a short-sighted creature I am, and to teach me to live by faith upon thy blessed self.

Out of my sorrow and night give me the name Naphtali – “satisfied with favour” – help me to love thee as thy child, and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

Brother, may God cradle you in the palm of His sovereign hand, and in the midst of your distress give you the name Naphtali – “satisfied with favour.” God’s grace and peace to you!

A Kid Named Paul and The Valley of Vision

Posted in Prayer, Puritans, Suffering, Valley of Vision on October 27, 2009 by kevinwilkening

valleyofvisionIn my humble estimation, apart from studying the Bible itself, studying the Puritans is one of the most profitable religious exercises a believer can undertake. I say this with great bias, because it is the Puritans who have so ministered to my own soul.  I scarcely have a sound theological thought that cannot be traced back, in some way, to the Puritans.

In God’s providence, what made the Puritans so special?  And why should we care about them today? The reason is simple. They had a two-fold ideology about them, 1) They knew the content of their Bibles, and consequently wrote deeply and passionately about it, and 2) They put their knowledge about Christ into action. Compared to the 21st century church, the Puritans were intellectual and spiritual giants. They delighted in, and longed for, a holy life that could only be found in union and communion with the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This yearning and desire for a pure spiritual experience was so overwhelming that they were religiously zealous for the Kingdom of God, for purity of doctrine, for the purity of the church, and purity of their own lives.  And nothing held them back from this God-centered, Christ-exalting hunger for God.

The reason I am writing about the Puritans this morning is because I have a brother who is currently serving as a pastor in Texas.  In their youth group they have a young man named Paul who is having surgery this morning to receive an artificial heart until the doctors can find a heart transplant.  My mind immediately rushed to The Valley of Vision: A Collections of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Nearly every day I read this book.  It goes with me everywhere I go.  I am rarely without this book at my side.  I pray that it will minister to you as much as it has me.

On behalf of Paul and his family, I would like you to pray with me the prayer entitled: Blessing.

Thou Great Three-One,

Author of all blessings I enjoy,

of all I hope for,

Thou hast taught me

that neither the experience of present evils,

nor the remembrances of former sins,

nor the remonstrances [arguments] of friends,

will or can affect a sinner’s heart,

except though vouchsafe [promises] to reveal thy grace

and quicken the dead in sin

by the effectual working of thy Spirit’s power.

Thou hast shown me

that the sensible effusions [pouring out] of divine love

in the soul are superior to and distinct from

bodily health,

and that oft-times spiritual comforts are

at their highest when physical well-being is

at its lowest.

Thou has given me the ordinance of song

as a means of grace;

Fit me to bear my part in that music ever new,

which elect angels and saints made perfect

now sing before thy throne and before the Lamb.

I bless thee for tempering every distress with joy;

too much of the former might weigh me down,

too much of the latter might puff me up;

Thou are wise to give me a taste of both.

I love thee

for giving me clusters of grapes

in the wilderness,

and drops of heavenly wine

that set me longing to have my fill.

Apart from thee I quickly die,

bereft of thee I starve,

far from thee I thirst and droop;

But thou art all I need.

Let me continually grasp the promise,

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  Amen.

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