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Posts Tagged ‘Pilgrim’s Progress

The Key in My Pocket

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(My post first appeared at the Three Rivers Grace blog on 10/14/2013.)

I hope you’ll forgive me for drawing another parallel between the lessons learned this week – this time in the Bible story illustration for our children’s catechism class – and Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.  There are so many exciting accounts in both the Bible and this marvelous tale that it’s no wonder the one makes me think of the other. But the semblance doesn’t end with the similarity in exciting stories.

key

The allegory of Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City has always been my favorite piece of literature. It is inspiring and encouraging and doused with Scripture; it convicts my heart and cuts it to the core no matter how many times I read it. I count Bunyan’s clever array of layers of doctrine and truths in the conversations and confrontations, observations and obstacles that his pilgrims encounter on their journey as creative genius (reflective of the Creator Genius).The PP scene that came to mind this week as I heard the story of Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel (“more [evil] than all who were before him”, 1 Kings 16:30) was the one where pilgrims Christian and Hopeful were wasting away in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. Christian’s disobedience had landed them there when he neglected the warning to stay strictly on the Way of the King and not wander to the right or to the left. The Way passed through lands belonging to Giant Despair, who loved to capture pilgrims and make them useless in service to the True and Good King. Despair and Doubt were his weapons, and by beating the pair with these bludgeons, this wicked servant of the Prince of this World succeeded in clouding Christian’s mind with dark thunderboomers of hopelessness, resignation, and defeat.But Hopeful (gotta love that Hopeful) would not give in, clinging to the Promises of the One who said His “eyes keep watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). He reminded Christian that the Key to Escape from Doubt and Despair had been with him all along – as long as he had the faithful promises of the Son of the King in his possession, he did not have to succumb to the humiliation and darkness.

For many years, I wrongly connected the key in Christian’s pocket to promises that the Lord would get me out of trouble. But that’s not what the beautiful consolation of this scene is about. There is no promise to be kept free of trouble in this life. The key here is the same one Elijah relied upon when he found himself watching the Brook Cherith dry up and feeling the armies of Ahab breathing down his neck:  not escape from trouble, but confidence in a God who keeps His promises. What made Elijah one of the “good” guys spoken of in Proverbs 15 is not that he was one of those saved from trouble, but one of those the Lord saved through faith – belief that God would do as He said. The Lord told Elijah, “Arise, go… I have commanded.” When Elijah arose and went, he saw what the Lord had arranged and, you might say, patted that little Key in his pocket.

Written by mrsdkmiller

October 16, 2013 at 8:35 am

Moving On, Moving Up

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This post has been moderated from its first appearance at the Three Rivers Grace blog.

A few weeks ago, the Sunday School classes at Three Rivers Grace marked Promotion Sunday, the day when children who are ready to graduate out of one Sunday School class make the move up to the next level.  So 2 year-old “Bed Babies” ascended to the 2s and 3s class, and children who had turned four during the past year moved up to the 4-year old – 3rd grade class. New 4th graders graduated to the 4th-6th grade class, and those former 6th graders found themselves seated with the “youth” – the 7th-12th graders.

As for the adults, the only moving around they did were those who “moved up” to the balcony for the 8-week membership class, which began that week as well.

We had some tears and nervousness, but there were also a lot of happy faces as older children welcomed younger children into their classrooms. (As far as I know, there were no tears among the adults.) For most, this was an enjoyable day of new experiences.

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The meaning of the word, promotion, is based on a simple prefix-root construction: pro (meaning “forward”) and mot (meaning “move”). Promotion means “moving forward”, hence the natural use of the term when we assume a new position someplace ahead of where we have been. Consider this use also, as we shepherd our children from the old classroom to the new :  our own promotion to glory.  Oh, the glory of that day when I shall cross the river and enter the Celestial City to spend eternity with my  King! I know this is what I long for, when I shall lay aside the sins that hinder me and the weight of a world groaning with iniquity and lawlessness. With every wearisome and sin-plagued day, I am reminded that in Christ I find my Sabbath and that He awaits me for an eternal rest in Heaven. This is a great theme to discuss with your children while they still have in their minds the excitement and novelty of this Promotion Sunday.

The father of a college friend of mine posted this comment on the sudden death of his son, “My wife, Ben [his oldest son] and I were with him at the end of his life on this side of GLORY. He was ready to go! This is a man who walked the walk and really cared for those who needed a friend, especially young people. He wanted to know and grown in the Lord. If he knew you then he prayed for you.”

To live is Christ, said the Apostle, to die is gain. I am eagerly looking forward to my Promotion Day.

Written by mrsdkmiller

October 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Blest cross! blest sepulchre!

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I love Pilgrim’s Progress. I savor every beautiful and vividly expounded doctrine of the allegory. If there were any person I could meet upon entering the Celestial City, I would be hard-pressed not to put John Bunyan at the top of that list. I delight in pondering the truths of the story and I especially love to teach it to children.

Here is one of my favorite passages, appropriate for today, Good Friday, from Section 3.

 

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which CHRISTIAN was to go was fenced on either side with a wall; and that wall was called “Salvation”.

“In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” Isaiah 26:1

Up this way, therefore, did burdened CHRISTIAN run; but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as CHRISTIAN came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

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Then was CHRISTIAN glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart,

“He hath given me rest by his sorrow,
And life by his death.”

Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10

 

Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three shining ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee!” so the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”;

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Mark 2:5

the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment;

“And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” Zechariah 3:4

the third also set a mark in his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it,

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Ephesians 1:13

which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate: so they went their way. Then CHRISTIAN gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing:

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss!
Must here the burden fall from off my back!
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack!
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!”

 Man of Sorrows, what a name!

Written by mrsdkmiller

March 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

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