Category Archives: Encouragement

“Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5.7)

The word “merciful” translates a Greek word from which we get “benefactor.” It appears in this sense only one other time in the New Testament (Hebrews 2.17) where Jesus is described as a merciful and faithful high priest.

The Latin derivation of the word is misericordia, a compound term – misernas, meaning “pity, misery, or pain” and cordis, “heart.” So miseria cordis is “pain of heart.” That’s the primary meaning of mercy. It’s when we count another’s misery or need as our very own and then act within our power and ability to relieve or supply their need.

Jesus illustrated the meaning of mercy to a self-righteous and unmerciful lawyer in Luke 10.25-37. He told the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead by the roadside. On no less than two occasions, highly respected men could have helped him, but instead chose to pass by. Then a Samaritan, loathsome in the estimation of the Jews, stopped, rendered first aid, carried the injured man to a place of safety and paid for his keep!

Now which of these three, Jesus asked the lawyer, was a neighbor to the man robbed? The lawyer’s only response was, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

Mercy considers neither status, ethnicity, nor race – simply the need, and compels us to extend whatever aid and assistance we are able to give.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

 – Bill


The Apostle Peter: How to Bear Fruit

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your

  • faith with virtue,
  • and virtue with knowledge,
  • and knowledge with self-control,
  • and self-control with steadfastness,
  • and steadfastness with godliness,
  • and godliness with brotherly affection,
  • and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

– 2 Peter 1.1-8


Spiritual Pictures

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God  (1 Corinthians 2.11).

There’s a problem understanding spiritual things with a mind orientated to thinking in physical terms. After all, we live in a world of matter, time, and decay. How do we describe the beauty of heaven, the horror of hell, or the wonder of salvation in physical terms? It seems almost impossible. Yet God, who fully understands our limitations, draws on human experiences and physical reality to describe spiritual things.

The Bible is filled with “spiritual pictures” drawn in language and terms we can understand. By looking at these pictures our spiritual awareness is quickened and our spiritual nature is aroused.

Think of the prodigal son, the pearl of great price, or the tree of life. Each one reveals a facet of great spiritual truth. No single picture reveals it all, but each contributes to the whole revelation until we eventually stand awed by the complete painting.

Some words in the New Testament are pictures themselves – atonement, forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation. Each word draws on examples from the Bible or human experience to shed more light on the wonder of salvation.

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1.18).

To reveal Himself to us God entered the physical realm through Jesus Christ. He did so visibly, powerfully, and dramatically. In Jesus, God says, “I’ll draw a picture for you so you can see what I’m like” – Immanuel, God with us!


“…my soul thirsts for Thee…” (Psalm 63.1)

Absalom was the third son of King David. Here is how the Bible describes him: “Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him” (2 Samuel 14.25).

He not only was handsome, he was the darling of his father. But he repaid his father’s favoritism by leading a rebellion against him. Absalom “stole” the hearts of the men of Israel, and David had to flee Jerusalem for his life into the wilderness of Judea beyond the Jordan.

It was during those agonizing days, at war with his own son, that he wrote of his longing for God. Psalm 63 opens with these words, “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee, my soul thirsts for Thee; my flesh faints for Thee, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Regardless of how desperate his circumstances appeared to be, David took refuge in God’s abiding presence. “For Thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy” (Psalm 63.7).

The psalm reminds us as well of God’s presence, of His promise to “be with us always” and of the risen Christ’s presence amid His saints. And so, as pilgrims in a parched land we seek and thirst and faint for Him to provide for us the refreshing relief of living water.

Grace to you all, and peace – Bill


The Savior

Thou hast given me a Savior,
produce in me a faith to live by Him,
to make Him all my desire, all my hope, all my glory.

May I enter Him as my refuge,
build on Him as my foundation,
walk in Him as my way,
follow Him as my guide,
receive His instructions as my prophet,
rely on His intercession as my high priest,
obey Him as my king.

May I never be ashamed of Him or His words,
but joyfully bear His reproach,
never displease Him by unholy or imprudent conduct,
never count it a glory if I take it patiently when buffeted for a fault,
never make the multitude my model,
never delay when Thy word invites me to advance.

May Thy dear Son preserve me from this present evil world,
so that its smiles never allure,
nor its frowns terrify,
nor its vices defile,
nor its errors delude me …
and whatsoever I do may it be done in the Savior’s name.

The Valley of Vision
A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions



So I, the prisoner in the Lord Jesus, beg you to live as though you were worthy of God’s invitation…

Be completely humble, gentle, and patient…

Put up with one another in love…

          Try hard to keep the Spirit’s unity…

Use peace to tie it together.

There is one body and one Spirit…

You were called to one hope, when God called you…

There is one Lord Jesus…

There is one faith…

There is one immersion…

There is one God.

He is the Father of everyone. God is above everything, through everything, and in everything.

– Paul
Ephesians 4.1-6
The Great Book


Grace and the Gospel


“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2.11-14).

Grace and the Gospel

♦ We stand in grace –

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5.1-2).

♦ We stand in the gospel –

 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand  (1 Corinthians 15.1).

♦ We are saved by grace –

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2.8).

♦ We are saved by the gospel –

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.1-2).


The Business of Holy Living

All Christians, in some way or another, are about the business of holy living, whether we have acquired a suitable vocabulary for it or not. But it is difficult to know exactly what it consists of. We hardly know what to look for anymore.

For the last hundred years and more, those who have set themselves up as our authorities in how to live have been taking us on thrilling roller-coaster prospects of either social utopianism or psychological fulfillment – or both. And we are worse. The only things that have improved, if that is the word for it, are our capacities to move faster and spend more.

There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty … Cultivate inner beauty, the gently, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way. (1 Peter 3.1B, 4-5).

 – Eugene Peterson, Living the Message


We Are to Pray

Head-Bowed-in-PrayerWe have examples in the Scripture of praying for those in sickness that they may be healed. This involves too the continuance of life. We are to pray for our daily bread, to pray for wisdom, to pray for power to control our evil tempers and unholy passions, to pray that we may be kept from temptation, from the persecution of evil men, that our brethren may be delivered from evil and evil men, and we are to pray that our own sins and the sins of our brethren may be forgiven.

We are to pray that the Gospel may have free course and be glorified, that an opening may be given to those who preach the Gospel.

We are to pray for rulers and for all who are in authority, that Christians may be enabled to lead lives of godliness in peace and quiet. They are to pray to be kept back from sin. They are taught to pray that it shall rain when season of drought and blight fall upon the land.

We are to pray for the Spirit of God. We are to pray for wisdom. In old times they prayed that God would give neither riches nor poverty, but such things as would keep His servants from harassment or care, or want, or temptations of great riches.

We believe such prayers ought to be fervently and earnestly made now and our lives made to harmonize with the prayers. These occur to us as we write, and with more thought and Scripture examination it might be indefinitely extended.

We will venture the assertion, it is the right and duty of every Christian to pray for any and everything for which he can work. He ought to labor in no calling or object in which and for the attainment of which he cannot pray.

The true objects of prayer are many. The great difficulty in prayer is in praying with the true design or spirit and in praying in faith and in keeping ourselves in such condition that God will hear and answer our prayers.

All our prayers ought to be presented in the spirit of which the Savior prayed. Our petitions ought to be made in the spirit, that we desire them answered if according to the will of God. That is, our wishes ought to be held in strict subservience to the will of God.

God somethings fails to answer the prayers of his dearest children. This is no evidence that those prayers are not heard or are offensive to God.

–Adapted from David Lipscomb
Gospel Advocate, Oct. 19, 1871, p. 963f.

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18.1

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12.12

“…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints….” Ephesians 6.17,18

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.“ Philippians 4.6

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5.14-15


Too Precious for Profit

The west Texas summers were hot and the houses weren’t air conditioned. Summers are supposed to be hot, that’s why there are lawn sprinklers. You could play in the water all up and down the block, get soaked, and in a matter of minutes be dry again. Ah, the good ole summertime, what fun!

It wasn’t such fun for my parents. I remember their guarded glances and whispered conversations one particularly hot summer. A playmate of mine, a little girl named Ruthie, fell ill. She lost the ability to move her arms and legs and she was unable to breathe on her own. She had to be placed in an “iron lung.” Polio had struck our neighborhood.

A Cure

Two American physicians, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, were working feverishly and independently of each other in an attempt to develop a vaccine for this crippling and deadly disease. By the mid-1950’s both had produced a vaccine. Salk’s “killed virus” vaccine was injected while Sabin’s “live virus” vaccine was administered orally.

I still remember clearly the day we were lined up and marched to the school nurse’s station to be vaccinated for polio. Vaccinations had always meant needles and I was concerned about crying in front of my schoolmates. But instead of a syringe, the nurse handed us a little cup containing two sugar cubes to eat. Now that’s my kind of vaccination!

It was sixty-three years ago last month that health authorities announced the development of the first safe and effective vaccine for polio. Thanks to these two men, their staffs, and research facilities, the disease is unknown today in the United States and is about to be eradicated in the rest of the world.

And you want to know something else? After years of work, research, and development, neither Jonas Salk nor Albert Sabin patented their vaccines. They gave it away – it was too precious for profit!

Disease Worse Than Polio

But as bad as polio or cancer or AIDS or a host of other physical diseases are, there’s another killer out there that’s far worse – it’s called sin. Physical disease destroys the body, but that’s all it can do. Sin destroys not only the body but the soul.

The soul is the eternal essence of mankind. It is immune to physical disease. An individual may suffer from polio or cancer or have diseased coronary arteries, but those have no effect on the soul.

The soul is susceptible to only one affliction, sin. It’s wide-spread; in fact, everyone has it. It’s as pernicious a malady as one can imagine. Yet its symptoms are often eagerly embraced and its nature ignored or even made the object of lighthearted humor. But make no mistake about it, sin is no laughing matter – its terminus is eternal conscious hell.

The Cure

There is only one vaccine for sin – sinless blood – the blood of a divine innocent victim, the blood of God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the long storied history of human existence, no one ever devised or developed a remedy for sin, though they’ve tried. The heavenly bodies, the sun, stars, and moon, have been made objects of veneration, as have the mountains, rivers, and forests. Animals have been offered, plants offered, even other human beings have been sacrificed to atone for sin. “Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Seeing our helplessness, our susceptibility to sin and its awful consequences, God, our Creator, offered His own Son to be our sin offering:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.6-8).

And though the “wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.23). O! Thanks be to God who loves and cares for us so much that He gave His own Son away – we are indeed too precious for profit!


In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.