In a pluralistic culture with competing beliefs and values, there is a desire to get back to basics-the classic expressions of the Christian faith. This 365-day devotional introduces readers to the minds and hearts of many of the most influential thinkers in church history. Each reading, modernized for today's audience, takes readers through two millennium of riches-from the early church fathers through the Medieval thinkers and the great councils, and on into the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the birth of the modern mind. An elegant edition for the nightstand, the desktop, or the coffee table, How Great Is Our God is one part historical tour, one part devotional, one part guide for living, and one part gift book. It will appeal to every Christian who wants to hear the hearts and discover the classic voices of Christianity through the ages.
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How Great Is Our God
Classic Writings from History's Greatest Christian Thinkers
By M.K. Gilroy
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2011 Mark Gilroy Creative LLC
All rights reserved.
The Humble Heart
Saint Benedict | 6th Century
Saint Benedict of Nursia is a Christian saint, honored by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of Europe and students.
If we do not dare approach men who are in power, except with humility and reverence, when we wish to ask a favor, how much more must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and purity of devotion? And let us be assured that it is not in many words, but in the purity of heart that we are heard.
The Holy Scripture cries out, saying: "Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted" (see Luke 14:11). This shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride. The Prophet declares that he guards himself against this, saying: "Lord, my heart is not puffed up; nor are my eyes haughty. Neither have I walked in great matters nor in wonderful things above me" (see Psalm 131:1).
Therefore, if we wish to reach the greatest height of humility, we must erect the ladder that appeared to Jacob in his dream, by which angels were shown ascending and descending. We understand this to be nothing else but that we descend by pride and ascend by humility. The erected ladder, however, is our life in the present world, which, if the heart is humble, the Lord lifts up to heaven. For our body and soul are the two sides of this ladder; and into these sides the divine calling has inserted various degrees of humility or discipline that we must mount.
We must, therefore, guard against evil desires. If the eyes of the Lord observe both good and bad, and our actions are reported to the Lord by the angels who are appointed to watch over us daily, we must ever be on our guard, that God may at no time see us "gone aside to evil and become unprofitable" (see Psalm14:3), and, because He is kind and waits for us to be changed for the better, may say to us in the future: "These things thou hast done and I was silent" (see Psalm 50:21).
Read: Luke 14:11
The Wisdom Of Patience
Charles Spurgeon | 19th Century
Charles Haddon (C. H.) Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher and a prolific author who is still known as the "Prince of Preachers."
Patience is better than wisdom: an ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains. All men praise patience, but few enough can practice it. When one's flesh and bones are full of aches and pains, it is as natural for us to murmur as for a horse to shake his head when the flies tease him, or a wheel to rattle when a spoke is loose. But nature should not be the rule with Christians, or what is their religion worth?
We expect more fruit from an apple tree than from a thorn, and we have a right to do so. The disciples of a patient Savior should be patient themselves. Grin and bear it is the old-fashioned advice, but sing and bear it is a great deal better.
Many people are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed; they chew the bitter pill which they would not even know to be bitter if they had the sense to swallow it whole in a cup of patience and water. They think every other man's burden to be light and their own feathers to be heavy as lead. Yet, if the truth were known, it is their fancy rather than their fate which makes things go so hard with them.
When troubles come, it is of no use to fly in the face of God by hard thoughts of providence: that is kicking against the pricks and hurting your feet. The trees bow in the wind, and so must we. If one door should be shut, God will open another. There's a bright side to all things, and a good God everywhere.
"All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28 KJV). Losses and crosses are heavy to bear, but when our hearts are right with God, it is wonderful how easy the yoke becomes. All's well that ends well; therefore, let us plow the heaviest soil with our eye on the sheaves of harvest, and learn to sing at our labor while others murmur.
Read: James 1:2-4
The Mystery of the Kingdom
George Eldon Ladd | 1959
George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982) was an American Baptist minister and professor whose best-known work, A Theology of the New Testament, has been used by thousands of seminary students since its publication in 1974.
The Word of God says that the Kingdom of God is a present spiritual reality. Righteousness and peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit which God bestows now upon those who yield their lives to the rule of the Spirit. They have to do with the deepest springs of spiritual life, and this, says the inspired apostle, is the Kingdom of God.
At the same time, the Kingdom is an inheritance which God will bestow upon His people when Christ comes in glory. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 25:34). How can the Kingdom of God be a present spiritual reality and yet be an inheritance bestowed upon God's people at the second coming of Christ?
The very complexity of the biblical teaching about the Kingdom of God is one of the reasons why such diverse interpretations have arisen in the history of theology. Isolated verses can be quoted for most of the interpretations which can be found in our theological literature. The Kingdom is a present reality (Matthew 12:28), and yet it is a future blessing (1 Corinthians 15:50). It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Romans 14:17) which can be experienced only by way of the new birth (John 3:3), and yet it will have to do with the government of the nations of the world (Revelation 11:15). The Kingdom is a realm into which men enter now (Matthew 21:31), and yet it is a realm into which they will enter tomorrow (Matthew 8:11). It is at the same time a gift of God which will be bestowed by God in the future (Luke 12:32) and yet which must be received in the present (Mark 10:15). Obviously no simple explanation can do justice to such a rich but diverse variety of teaching.
Read: Romans 14:17
The Lord Exalted
George Fox | 17th Century
George Fox (1624-1691) was an English Dissenter and a founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers or Friends.
Upon the Fourth-day of the First month, 1650,
I felt the power of the word spread over all the world in praise.
Praise, honor, and glory be to the Lord of heaven and earth!
Lord of peace, Lord of joy!
Your countenance makes my heart glad.
Lord of glory, Lord of mercy, Lord of strength,
Lord of life, and of power over death,
and Lord of lords, and King of kings!
In the world there are lords many,
but to us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things;
and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things:
to whom be all glory, who is worthy!
In the world are many lords, and many gods,
and the earth makes lords, coveting after riches,
and oppressing the creatures;
and so, the covetous mind getting to itself, lords it above others.
This nature of lordly pride is head, until subdued by the power of God:
for everyone, in that state, strives to be above another;
few will strive to be the lowest.
Oh, that everyone would strive to put down, in themselves, mastery and honor,
so that the Lord of heaven and earth might be exalted!
Read: Psalm 99:9
The Sin of Impatience
Catherine of Siena | C. 1374
Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was a tertiary of the Dominican Order, a scholastic philosopher, and theologian. She is one of the two patron saints of Italy, together with Francis of Assisi.
I write to you with the desire to see you established in true patience, since I consider that without patience we cannot please God. For just as impatience gives much pleasure to the devil and to one's own lower nature, and revels in nothing but anger when it misses what the lower nature wants, so it is very displeasing to God. It is because anger and impatience are the very pith and sap of pride that they please the devil so much.
Impatience loses the fruit of its labor and deprives the soul of God; it begins by knowing a foretaste of hell: for in hell the evil perverted will burns with anger, hate, and impatience. It burns and does not consume, but is evermore renewed. It has indeed parched and consumed grace in the souls of the lost, but it has not consumed their being, and so their punishment lasts eternally.
There is no sin nor wrong that gives a man such a foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience. It is hated by God, it holds its neighbor in aversion, and has neither knowledge nor desire to bear and forbear with its faults. And whatever is said or done to it, it poisons quickly, and its impulses blow about like a leaf in the wind. It becomes unendurable to itself, for perverted will is always gnawing at it, and it craves what it cannot have; it is discordant with the will of God and with the rational part of its own soul. And all this comes from the tree of Pride, from which oozes out the sap of anger and impatience. The man becomes an incarnate demon, and it is much worse to fight with these visible demons than with the invisible. Surely, then, every reasonable being ought to flee this sin.
Read: Ecclesiastes 7:8-9
A Long Repentance
Daniel Defoe | 1719
Daniel Defoe (c. 1659-1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English writer and journalist, who was famous for his popular pamphlets on numerous topics and later for his novel Robinson Crusoe.
Being one day at Hull, and one of my companions being about to sail to London in his father's ship, and prompting me to go with them with the common allurement of seafaring men, I consulted neither father nor mother, nor so much as sent them word of it; but without asking God's blessing or my father's, without any consideration of circumstances or consequences, on the first of September 1651, I went on board a ship bound for London.
Never any young adventurer's misfortunes, I believe, began sooner, or continued longer than mine. The ship was no sooner out of the Humber than the wind began to blow and the sea to rise in a most frightful manner; and, as I had never been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body and terrified in mind. I began now seriously to reflect upon what I had done, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of Heaven. My conscience, which was not yet come to the pitch of hardness to which it has since, reproached me with the contempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to God and my father.
To make short this sad part of my story, we went the way of all sailors; the punch was made and I was made half drunk with it: and in that one night's wickedness I drowned all my repentance, all my reflections upon my past conduct, all my resolutions for the future. In a word, as the sea was returned to its smoothness of surface and settled calmness by the abatement of that storm, I entirely forgot the vows and promises that I made in my distress.
But I was to have another trial for it still; and Providence, as in such cases generally it does, resolved to leave me entirely without excuse; for if I would not take this for a deliverance, the next was to be such a one as the worst and most hardened wretch among us would confess both the danger and the mercy of.
Read: Proverbs 14:12-13
Stand and Defend
Ambrose | 4th Century
Aurelius Ambrosius (c. 337-397), better known in English as Saint Ambrose, was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the fourth century. He was one of the four original Doctors of the Church.
Make yourselves then to appear worthy that Christ should be in your midst. For where peace is, there is Christ, for Christ is Peace; and where righteousness is, there is Christ, for Christ is Righteousness. Let Him be in the midst of you, that you may see Him, lest it be said to you also: "There standeth one in the midst of you, whom ye see not" (John 1:26 KJV). The Jews saw not Him in Whom they believed not; we look upon Him by devotion, and behold Him by faith.
Let Him therefore stand in your midst, that the heavens, which declare the glory of God, may be opened to you, that you may do His will, and work His works. He who sees Jesus, to him are the heavens opened as they were opened to Stephen, when he said: "Behold I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (see Acts 7:56). Jesus was standing as his advocate, He was standing as though anxious, that He might help His athlete Stephen in his conflict, He was standing as though ready to crown His martyr.
Let Him then be standing for you, that you may not be afraid of Him sitting; for when sitting He judges, as Daniel says: "The thrones were placed, and the books were opened, and the Ancient of days did sit" (see Daniel 7:9). But in the eighty-second Psalm it is written: "God stood in the congregation of gods, and decideth among the gods." So then when He sits He judges, when He stands He decides, and He judges concerning the imperfect, but decides among the gods. Let Him stand for you as a defender, as a good shepherd, lest the fierce wolves assault you.
Read: Romans 8:34
Counting the Cost
Robert Hawker | 1801
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was a prominent vicar of the Anglican Church who was called the "Star of the West" for his superlative preaching that drew thousands.
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost?" (Luke 14:28). Ponder, my soul, over this very striking image concerning the divine life. The picture of a builder is most aptly chosen; for the Christian builder is building for eternity. And the figure of a warrior, which our Lord also joins to it, is no less so, for the battle is for life, and that life is eternal. Have you counted the cost? Have you entered upon the work? Is the foundation stone, which God hath laid in Zion, the rock on which you are building?
Pause and examine. Be the cost what it may: the loss of earthly friends; the parting with every worldly pursuit; the scorn, contempt, and derision of all mankind; indeed, the loss of life itself: if these become competition, are you ready to give them all up? When you have answered these inquiries, go on, and see that your foundation be really fixed on Christ.
If so, it must have been previously sought for, by digging deep into the natural state in which you were born. Jesus must have been first determined to be most essentially necessary and precious, before the spiritual building of the soul was made to rest upon him. And, when found, unless the whole of the building rests entirely upon him, it will, like an off-center column, still totter.
Oh! It is blessed to make Christ the all in all of the spiritual temple; blessed to make him the first in point of order; blessed to make him the first in point of strength, to support and bear the weight of the whole building; blessed to make him the grand cement, to unite and keep together, in one harmonious proportion and regularity, every part of the building; and blessed to bring forth the capstone of the building, by his strength and glory, crying, "Grace, grace unto it."
Read: Luke 14:28
The Bliss of Utter Helplessness
William Barclay | 1956
William Barclay (1907-1978) was a Scottish minister, author, professor, and radio and television presenter.
If people have realized their own utter helplessness, and have put their whole trust in God, there will enter into their lives two elements which are opposite sides of the same coin. They will become completely detached from material things, for they will know that things do not have the power to bring happiness or security; and they will become completely attached to God, for they will know that God alone can bring them help, hope, and strength. Those who are poor in spirit are men and women who have realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything.
We must be careful not to think that this beatitude calls actual material poverty a good thing. Poverty is not a good thing. Jesus would never have called blessed a state where people live in slums and do not have enough to eat, and where health deteriorates because conditions are all against it. It is the aim of the Christian gospel to remove that kind of poverty. The poverty which is blessed is the poverty of spirit, when people realize their own utter lack of resources to meet life, and find their help and strength in God.
Jesus says that to such a poverty belongs the kingdom of heaven. Why should that be so? If we take the two petitions of the Lord's Prayer and set them together,
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
We get the definition: the kingdom of God is a society where God's will is as perfectly done in earth as it is in heaven. That means that only those who do God's will are citizens of the kingdom; and we can only do God's will when we realize our own utter helplessness, our own utter ignorance, our own utter inability to cope with life, and when we put our whole trust in God.
So, the first beatitude means: O the bliss of those who have realized their own utter helplessness, and who have put their whole trust in God, for thus alone can they render to God that perfect obedience which will make them citizens of the kingdom of heaven!
Read: Matthew 5:3
Excerpted from How Great Is Our God by M.K. Gilroy. Copyright © 2011 Mark Gilroy Creative LLC. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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Table of Contents
It's a Glorious Faith,
Notes about the Selections,
Every Century and Every Tradition,
January through December,
Chronological Reading Plan,