Posted in creation, God, valley of vision

Hovering over chaos, order came to birth: Valley of Vision

My morning devotional includes reading one prayer from the phenomenal book “Valley of Vision.” These are Puritan prayers, collected and compiled by grand subject. Today’s was “The Spirit’s Work”. For me, these prayers are utterly moving, piercing, and beautiful with a lyricism of writing and a stirring of the soul that is unmatched, except by the Bible. Here is today’s, and I comment at the end:

The Spirit’s Work (from The Valley of Vision)

O God the Holy Spirit,
Thou who dost proceed from the Father and the Son,
have mercy on me.

When thou didst first hover over chaos,
order came to birth,
beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.
Move, I pray thee, upon my disordered heart;
Take away the infirmities of unruly desires
and hateful lusts;

Lift the mists and darkness of unbelief;
Brighten my soul with the pure light of truth;
Make it fragrant as the garden of paradise,
rich with every goodly fruit,
beautiful with heavenly grace,
radiant with rays of divine light.

Fulfil in me the glory of thy divine offices;
Be my comforter, light, guide, sanctifier;
Take of the things of Christ and show them to my soul;
Through thee may I daily learn more of his love,
grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds,
the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;

May I there see my sins as
the nails that transfixed him,
the cords that bound him,
the thorns that tore him,
the sword that pierced him.

Help me to find in his death the reality
and immensity of his love.
Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth
in his, ‘It is finished’.

Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of
atonement achieved, expiation completed,
satisfaction made, guilt done away,
my debt paid, my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed, my soul saved,
hell vanquished, heaven opened,
eternity made mine.

O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.
Write them upon my heart, that my walk be
sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving;
And suffer no devil’s device to beguile
or deceive me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I read the line that says,

When thou didst first hover over chaos, order came to birth, beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.

It brought to mind a metaphor. When all three Persons of the Triune God were intimately involved with the earth’s creation, it made me think of a metaphor of how the Triune God is intimately involved in similar work to hover over us, order coming to birth, beauty robing our soul, and fruitfulness springing forth. He creates out of the formless void of our disordered heart peace, calm, rest, fruitfulness. All three Persons of the Triune God are involved in creating in us an interior world of light.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

May the perfect and loving God who created earth and soul, bring you truth and comfort today. Let the Light of His love and Word illuminate your soul.

Posted in book recommendations, book review, valley of vision

Book review: Don’t like devotionals? Then I have THE one for you, The Valley of Vision

Christians often speak of “Devotions” or of doing a “devotional.”

CARM.org defines devotions this way:

Devotions are times when you focus on the person of God in prayer and/or the Bible and set your heart and mind on his divine truth. Devotions are quiet times of reflection, confession, examination, and worship. Our devotions must be Christ centered and seek to move us into a more intimate and personal relationship with our Lord.

GotQuestions defines devotions:

Daily devotions” is a phrase used to describe the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading can take the form of a structured study using a devotional or simply reading through certain passages or perhaps reading through the Bible in a year. Prayer can include any or all of the different prayers—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and/or intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions.

There are lots and lots and lots and lots of devotion books out there. Some are good, some are great, and some are bad-to-demonic. Jesus Calling is at the top of the bestseller lists but falls under the umbrella of “imperiling your soul” category.

Excellent devotionals would be,

Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest
John MacArthur’s Drawing Near (or any of his others)
Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening series or Faith’s Check-book
We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

They can be found online for free as well as in hard copy.

I own or owned all of the above. Yet I have never been able to get on the devotional bandwagon. I read the bible and pray, listen to sermons and read theology books, but I’ve never consistently been able to devote myself to a devotional.

Until I found The Valley of Vision.

This is a collection of anonymous devotional prayers written by Puritans. The book description says,

The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature. Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order and definiteness. The reason for this lies partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to ‘supply’ prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before.

Yet the book really defies description. Just as John Bunyan’s 1678 publication of Pilgrim’s Progress is thought to be “as important as the Bible as a Christian document”, and “one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written,” The Valley of Vision remains one of the most important and influential prayer books ever penned and published.

Testimony after testimony speak to the book’s moving language, the convicting attitude, the poetic yet humble manner in which the words both pierce and comfort.

A Reviewer at Banner of Truth said,

In the mornings when I endeavor to set my heart on God, it is often difficult to awaken my mind and heart when still shaking off the lingering effects of a night spent sleeping. After a brief prayer, I have found the prayers in the book kindle the flame in my heart to seek His face anew. Often, after I’ve read through a prayer, slowly and deliberately, I’m left with tears standing in my eyes, and an “Amen” whispering from my lips. In my heart I say to the Lord, “Yes. Make that my prayer too, Lord.” When you have difficulty finding the words to pray, this book can be used of the Spirit to bring them out for you. I thank God for these prayers. They are timeless, and a means of grace to me.

Or this testimonial,

The prayers in this book just touch my soul and enrich my spirit every morning. This is a must have for those who are truly born again.

Or this one,

“I cannot commend enough The Valley of Vision, which is a compilation of over two-hundred pages of Puritan prayers (each of which are one page in length). I pray through one of these prayers every day. Sometimes the prayers are so meaningful and relevant that I will pray through the same prayer for days. This is a wonderful aid to supplement one’s own prayers. Indeed, these prayers will also teach one how to pray, and, at the same time, they teach theological truth. I cannot think of any Christian who would not benefit from these prayers.” – G. K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

Here is but one sentence to give you a taste:

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Uniformly, the reviews and comments on The Valley of Vision contain effusive praise for the theology, the writing, and the simply beautiful devotion each author had for our tremendous Savior. The prayer devotionals are sophisticated yet accessible, timeless and powerful. I add my commendation to the chorus of praise echoing through the centuries, and urge any and all who truly want a deep, moving, and powerful devotional to purchase The Valley of Vision today.

The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Available through Banner of Truth Trust, Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore, and Amazon.com

———————————

Further Reading:

Appreciating the Genius of Puritanism

Posted in bible, jonathan edwards, repentance, revival, sinners in the hands of an angry god, valley of vision

Marks of a True Spirit-initiated Revival

The Book of Acts is such a wonderful book to study. I’m fascinated by what the Spirit brings to mind each time I read through it. On Wednesday night we were studying the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of 14. I was thinking about Acts chapter 13, verse 42. Here are the rabbit trails I went down after I got home and in the succeeding two days 🙂

As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. (Acts 13:42)

Antioch. From Wikipedia

I focused on the word “begged”. Isn’t it wonderful that the people BEGGED to hear more of the Word. Begged to hear more of the Good News. It seemed important. Begged.

I started thinking of the reaction of people to the Gospel that Acts shows us. Shortly after the verse 42 was this one in v. 44

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

What a wonderful work of the Spirit! To ignite an entire city’s heart so that almost all of them turned out! I know that among the crowd would like be some rubber-neckers, others would be sent to spy on them (Gal 2:4) but still, almost an entire city eager and begging to hear of the Gospel. It blesses the heart and refreshes the mind to even think of such a thing happening today.

That thought brought me to another city that turned out to hear the message from God, this time, not Good News but Bad News: impending Divine wrath. Jonah preached only one day into a three-day walk sized city and immediately they were repenting already. (Jonah 3:3-4). Again, another amazing move of the Spirit.

Turning from those days to Enfield CT when Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, I was thinking of the Spirit’s lack of move in Edwards’ own congregation. He’d preached the same sermon to his own people but it fell like a lead balloon. When Edwards was invited to preach at Enfield, it had an immediate impact, the historically verified one we know of today.

The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines revival as

The soveriegn activity of God whereby he renews his people individually and corporately in vigour, affecting both sincerity of belief and quality of behaviour.

What seems to be the marks of a real revival? In looking at Antioch, Nineveh, and Enfield CT the same things are present:

–an immediate response (eagerness to hear more of God’s word, repentance)

–widespread impact (in the case of the Woman at the Well, her individual conversion resulted in telling the Good News to the town, which all showed up asking Jesus to stay and tell them more as per John 4:40. In the case of the corporate conversion, the people at Antioch wanted to hear more and all showed up the next week to listen to Paul.)

–demonic opposition (angry Pharisees, plots, riots, rejection. Even as Edwards was lauded for the sermon and people begged to hear it over and over from different pulpits to which he was invited, after a several-year fight he was dismissed from his own pastorate for trying to lead them away from the liberalism and compromise in the Half-Way Covenant).

It’s so strange to think of the Spirit’s move in masses of people. In Nineveh, widespread repentance. In Jerusalem, widespread rejection of Jesus and His followers. In Antioch, widespread acceptance (at least, a curiosity without rancor). In Lystra, they drove Paul out and stoned him. In June 1741 in Northampton, Edwards’ sermon was received without murmur. A month later in Enfield, they tore their clothes and begged to be saved.

It seems that after repentance, the very least one should see in a genuinely converted or revived person or corporate entity is eagerness to hear the Word preached, to study it, and proclaim it. After that, one should expect to see lives that align with the repentance they professed, in the form of a personal hatred of sin and progressive sanctification as their old man dies and the New Man is growing in them. Last, one should expect to see perseverance of the saints. The genuinely revived or converted will not fall away

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

Matthew Henry wrote,

The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ.

The Faithlife Study Bible Commentary says,

3:8 wind The Greek word pneuma can mean “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” John uses the metaphor of the wind as a power that is felt but unseen to explain the power of the Spirit of God. This echoes God’s Spirit hovering before His creative works began—providing credence for the Spirit that Jesus initiates among all believers being one with God the Father as well (1:2). The creative act of God will enter people, becoming the source of their transformation back into God’s image.

The Holy Spirit’s work in salvation individually or corporately, is a wondrous strange thing.

Lord Jesus, I sin. Grant that I may never cease grieving because of it, never be content with myself, never think I can reach a point of perfection. Kill my envy, command my tongue, trample down self. Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure, peaceable, to live for Thee and not for self, to copy Thy words, acts, spirit, to be transformed into Thy likeness, to be consecrated wholly to Thee, to live entirely to Thy glory. Valley of Vision