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“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7).

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t like failure. I’ve tried – because it seemed like a good idea – but usually what I resolved to do had little spiritual value – exercise more, eat less, stop and smell the roses…that kind of thing. And, inevitably, my vows had little sticking power. By February it was back to the same old Linden. But maybe my focus was wrong. And maybe my motives were as well.

Jonathan Edwards is famous for his 70 resolutions (which he read weekly). As my gift to you for 2012, I want to share some of them. Maybe you’ll find them as inspirational as I did. Maybe we all can find a way to integrate these kind of resolutions into the way we live; a way that should always seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The older English language may be a bit challenging (it is for me), but I believe there is great value in considering these vows. Here is my sampling for you:

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple [truth].

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Aug. 17, 1723

*****This is from the December 5th reading from the new book Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings from Banner of Truth. I would urge all pursuers of Christ to read the Puritans and better understand their thinking on the glory of God, divine providence, fellowship with God, holiness of life, mortification of sin, prayer, zeal, redeeming the time, and trust in the Lord during times of affliction – things we all need to embrace in this present day.  

I encountered the devotional below soon after I was informed that my current job function was about to change. My first reaction to the company’s “realignment” was one of severe disappointment and more than a bit of hurt. But, upon pondering God’s loving providence that has led me throughout my life, I began to get excited! He promised to never leave nor forsake me, to be with me even to the ends of the earth. What marvelous thing is God doing that He hasn’t shared with me yet? To me, in the here and now, it doesn’t look very positive. But God is working all things together for my eternal good and His worthy glory (Romans 8:28-31). It may not be what I “want” but it will be His best for me. So let’s consider John Flavel’s words while trusting that God is at work in our work even when it seems as if “the economy,” unions, management, or companies rule our destiny.

“The ways of God’s providence direct us into the calling and employment that is ordered for us in this world.  To have an honest, lawful employment in which you do not dishonour God is no small mercy.  If it is suited also to your genius and strength, this is a double mercy.  If you have less toil than others and more time for heavenly exercises, ascribe this benefit to the special care of providence for you.  How strangely are things wheeled about by providence!  David followed the sheep and likely never raised his thoughts to higher things, but God made him the royal shepherd.  Some have work, but not enough strength.  Others have strength, but no employment.  If God blesses your labour and gives you and yours necessary support and comfort in the world, it is a choice providence and should be acknowledged with all thankfulness.  If you find yourself scarcely able to provide for the necessities of life, consider: though you have a small portion of the world, if you are godly, he has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5).  Providence has ordered the condition that is really best for your eternal good.  If you had more of the world you might not be able to manage it to your advantage.  We are directed to be content with food and clothing, and the little that the righteous has is better than the riches of many wicked (Psa. 37:16).  If providence has so disposed you that you cannot only eat your own bread but have enough for works of mercy upon others, and all this is brought to pass in a way you did not expect, let God be honoured in this providence.  Remember that the success of your callings and earthly employments is by divine blessing and not human diligence alone.  Be well satisfied in the station and employment where you have been placed.  God is wise and seeks your eternal good”. 

John Flavel, Works, IV:387-391

*****This is from the January 1 reading from the new book Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings from Banner of Truth. I would encourage all pursuers of Christ to read the Puritans and better understand their thinking on the glory of God, divine providence, fellowship with God, holiness of life, mortification of sin, prayer, zeal, and trust in the Lord during times of affliction – things we all need to embrace in this present day.  

Do not be discouraged at the difficulties and oppositions that will rise up before you when you begin resolvedly to walk with God. Discouragements turn multitudes from religion, and provide a great temptation for many young beginners to turn back. Israel in thewilderness was ready to retreat to Egypt. God himself will have his servants and his graces tried and exercised by difficulties, and Satan, will quickly raise up storms before us, as soon as we are set out to sea. But God is on your side and has all your enemies in his hand, and can rebuke them, or destroy them in a moment. O what is the breath or fury of dust or devils, against the Lord Almighty! In the day you entered into a covenant with God, and he with you, you entered into the most impregnable rock and fortress, and covered yourself in a castle of defence, where you may (modestly) defy all adverse powers of earth or hell. If God cannot save you, he is not God. And if he will not save you, he must break his covenant. Indeed, he may resolve to save you, not from affliction and persecution, but in it, and by it! But in all these things you will—‘Overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37). It is far more desirable and excellent to conquer by patience, in suffering for Christ, than to conquer our persecutors in the field, by force of arms. O think on the saints’ triumphant boastings in their God: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psa. 46:1). If all of the world were on your side, you might yet have cause to fear. But to have God on your side is infinitely more! Christ the Captain of your salvation has gone this way before you, and now he is engaged to make you a conqueror! Do not be afraid where Christ is leading the way. Do not draw back when you see his steps and his blood! ” 

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, i:43

Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymn-writer, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley call him “the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen”. After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the nonconformists, spending time in prison.

****The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards.  These words are from a message on “trials” from I Peter 1:8…”these trials are of further benefit of true religion, they not only manifest the truth of it, but make its beauty to appear…”.  To help the contemporary reader, replace the word “affections” with the term “emotions” or “desires” and the word “religion” with “faith”. Below the devotional is a piece of the Wiki article on Edwards so that we might become better acquainted with this influential figure from church history.

“Who will deny that true religion consists in a great measure in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?

That religion which God requires, and will accept, DOES NOT consist in a weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little ABOVE A STATE OF INDIFFERENCE. God, in His word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, “fervent in spirit.”

He spoke of old to Israel,”What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in ALL His ways, and to love Him with ALL THY HEART, AND WITH ALL THY SOUL?” This is the fruit of true regeneration.

If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigour in the actings of our inclinations so required as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious (hateful). True religion is evermore a powerful thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place in the inward exercises of it in the heart, where is the principal and original seat of it. Hence true religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from the external appearances of it, that are only the form of it. II Tim. 3:5

The world continues from age to age in a pursuit of THINGS; but take away affections, and the spring of all this motion would be gone, and the motion itself would cease. And as in worldly things, worldly affections are very much the spring of men’s action; so in religious matters the spring of their actions is very much religious affections: he that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of true religion.

Nothing is more manifest in fact, than that the things of religion take hold of men’s souls no further than they affect them. There are multitudes that often hear the word of God, and therein hear of those things that are infinitely great and important, and that most concern them, and all that is heard seems to be wholly ineffectual upon them, and to make no alteration in their disposition or behaviour, and the reason is, they are NOT AFFECTED WITH WHAT THEY HEAR. I am bold to assert that there never was any considerable change wrought in the mind or conduct of any person, by anything of a religious nature that ever he read, heard, or saw, that HAD NOT HIS AFFECTIONS MOVED. Never was a natural man engaged earnestly to seek his salvation; never were any such brought to cry after wisdom, and lift up his voice for understanding, and to wrestle with God in prayer for mercy; nor was one ever induced to fly for refuge to Christ, while his heart REMAINED UNAFFECTED. Nor was there ever a saint awakened out of a cold, lifeless frame, or recovered from a declining state of religion, and brought back from a lamentable departure from God, WITHOUT HAVING HIS HEART AFFECTED.

And the impressing divine things on the hearts and the affections of men is evidently one great and main end for which God has ordained that His Word delivered in the holy Scriptures should be opened, applied, and set home upon men, in preaching. And there-fore it does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and books of divinity; because these may tend as well as preaching to give men a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the things of the Word of God; yet they have not and equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. GOD HATH APPOINTED A PARTICULAR AND LIVELY APPLICATION OF HIS WORD TO MEN IN THE PREACHING OF IT, as a fit means to affect sinners with their own misery and the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; and to stir up the pure minds of the saints, and quicken their affections, by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance.

Remember, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel about “taking out of the stony heart, and putting in a heart of flesh.” Now by a hard heart is plainly meant an UNAFFECTED heart, or a heart not easy to be moved with virtuous affections, like a stone, insensible, stupid, unmoved, and hard to be impressed. Hence the hard heart is called a STONY HEART, as opposed to a HEART OF FLESH,

that has feeling, and is sensibly touched and moved. We read in Scripture of a HARD HEART and a TENDER HEART; and these doubtless are contrary to one another. But what is a TENDER HEART BUT A HEART WHICH IS EASILY IMPRESSED WITH WHAT OUGHT TO AFFECT IT.?

He who has no religious affection is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. There can be a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a COLD AND UNAFFECTED HEART, there can be nothing divine in that light; that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of Divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will AFFECT THE HEART. The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of in the Word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.

The prevailing prejudice against religious affections has the effect of hardening the hearts of sinners, and dampen the graces of the saints, and to stun the life and power of religion, and to hold us down in a state of dulness and apathy. There are false affections, and there are true. A man’s having much affection, does not prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion. If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion. It appears from what has been said that this arises from our having so little true religion”.

Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. Edwards’s theological work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first fires of revival in 1733-1735 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is considered a classic of early American literature, which he delivered during another wave of revival in 1741, following George Whitefield’s tour of the Thirteen Colonies. Edwards is widely known for his many books: The End For Which God Created the World; The Life of David Brainerd, which served to inspire thousands of missionaries throughout the nineteenth century; and Religious Affections, which many Reformed Evangelicals read even today. Edwards died from a smallpox inoculation shortly after beginning the presidency at the College of New Jersey (later to be named Princeton University), and was the grandfather of Aaron Burr.

****The following is the January 29th entry from Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest. Below the devotional is a piece of the Wiki article on Chambers so that we might become better acquainted with this influential figure from church history.

“Who art Thou, Lord?” (Acts 26:15)   

“The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand.” There is no escape when Our Lord speaks, He always comes with an arrestment of the understanding. Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears, but through your circumstances.

God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. “I know this is what I should do” – and suddenly the voice of God
speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we
determined to serve Him. We serve Jesus in a spirit that is not His, we hurt Him by our advocacy for Him, we push His claims in the spirit
of the devil. Our words sound all right, but our spirit is that of an enemy. “He rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit
ye are of.” The spirit of our Lord in an advocate of His is described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Have I been persecuting Jesus by a zealous determination to serve Him in my own way? If I feel I have done my duty and yet have hurt Him in
doing it, I may be sure it was not my duty, because it has not fostered the meek and quiet spirit, but the spirit of self-satisfaction. We imagine that whatever is unpleasant is our duty! Is that anything like the spirit of our Lord – “I delight to do Thy will, O My God.”

Oswald J. Chambers (born July 24, 1874 in Aberdeen, Scotland; died November 15, 1917 in Egypt) was a prominent early twentieth century Scottish Protestant Christian minister and teacher, best known as the author of the widely-read devotional My Utmost for His Highest.

Born to devout Baptist parents, Chambers did not plan to go into the ministry. He studied at Kensington Art School and attended the University of Edinburgh, where he studied fine art and archaeology. But while at Edinburgh, he felt called to ministry, and transferred to Dunoon College. An unusually gifted student, Chambers soon began teaching classes and started a local society dedicated to Robert Browning, his favorite poet.

Chambers travelled the world, stopping in Egypt, Japan, and America. It was on one of his trips to America that he met Gertrude Hobbs. In 1910 he was married to Hobbs, whom he affectionately called “Biddy”. On 24 May 1913, Biddy gave birth to their first and only child, Kathleen.

In 1911 he founded and became principal of the Bible Training College in Clapham in London. In 1915, feeling called to the war effort (World War I), Chambers applied and was accepted as a YMCA chaplain. He announced that the Bible Training College would be suspending operations for the duration of the war. Chambers was assigned to Zeitoun in Egypt, where he ministered to Australian and New Zealand troops who were later part of the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli.

Chambers died November 15, 1917 in Egypt as the result of a ruptured appendix. He suffered the extreme pain of appendicitis for three days before seeking medical attention, refusing to take a hospital bed needed by wounded soldiers.

While there are more than 30 books that bear his name, he only penned one book, Baffled to Fight Better. His wife, Biddy, was a stenographer and could take dictation at a rate of 150 words per minute. During his time teaching at the Bible College and at various sites in Egypt, Biddy kept verbatim records of his lessons. She spent the remaining 30 years of her life compiling her records into the bulk of his published works.

****The following is the January 7th entry from C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Below the devotional is a piece of the Wiki article on Spurgeon so that we might become better acquainted with this influential figure from church history.

“The believer did not always live to Christ. He began to do so when God the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and when by grace he was brought to see the dying Saviour making a propitiation for his guilt. From the moment of the new and celestial birth the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our love, that it beats alone for him; to his glory we would live, and in defence of his gospel we would die; he is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character. Paul’s words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ-nay, his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he did eat, and drink, and sleep eternal life. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life. Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ? Your business-are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, “Is that a mean reason?” For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery? Many there are who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he hath lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Yet, this alone is the true life of a Christian-its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one word-Christ Jesus. Lord, accept me; I here present myself, praying to live only in thee and to thee. Let me be as the bullock which stands between the plough and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, “Ready for either.” 

Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon (June 19, 1834 – January 31, 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the “Prince of Preachers.” In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times each week at different places. His sermons have been translated into many languages. Spurgeon was the pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for 38 years. He was part of several controversies with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and later had to leave that denomination. In 1857, he started a charity organization called Spurgeon’s which now works globally. He also founded Spurgeon’s College, which was named after him posthumously.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, a commentary, books on prayer, a devotional, a magazine, poetry, hymnist, and more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Arguably, no other author, Christian or otherwise, has more material in print than C.H. Spurgeon.

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