John Milton Applies His Talents to His Faith

John Milton died on November 8, 1674. He is described as “the greatest poet of Christian themes England has produced”.

Born to a family of means in London on 9 December, 1608, his Christian convictions were most probably invoked through his mother, Sarah, who is described as a very religious person. His genius for poetry revealed itself at an early age. His paraphrase of Psalm 136 was written when he was 15 years of age …
Let us with a gladsome mind
praise the Lord for He is kind …

Originally it had 24 stanzas.

Milton considered himself destined for ministry, and was first taught languages by his father, then was schooled at St Paul’s School and Christ’s College Cambridge. After a year at Cambridge he was suspended for a fist fight with his tutor. Milton held his beliefs firmly. He was not particularly liked by the other students. At Cambridge he composed “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” on Christmas Day 1629.

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After graduation he spent time at home, engaged in literature, and then went to the Continent where he met many notables, including Galileo (then under house arrest by the church), the Pope’s nephew Cardinal Barberini and Calvinist theologian Giovanni Diodati.

Milton returned to London and was then caught up in the English Civil War. He became secretary to Oliver Cromwell writing political treatises to counter critical works originating on the Continent. He also wrote several prose works from a Puritan perspective including pamphlets against the episcopy.

At the age of 44 he became totally blind – but continued to write political treatises.

Then – in later life – he turned back to poetry.

His epic work, Paradise Lost, in which he “sought to justify the ways of God to man” was published in ten volumes in 1667. The copyright was sold for 5 pounds Sterling at a time when Milton’s finances had taken a turn for the worse.

Milton’s blindness made huge demands on his creativity. He would compose verses at night and commit them to memory, then dictate them to his daughters or other assistants in the morning.

Many of Milton’s religious views were at variance to Puritan theology, including his disbelief in the divine birth.

His domestic life was sad. His first wife, 17 year old Mary Powell, who married him when he was twice her age, left him after “a few weeks” then returned two years later (1645) and bore him three daughters.

After her death he re-married (1656), but his second wife died two years later.

At the age of 58 he married again to a much younger woman, despite the opposition of his daughters, and this third wife seemed to bring him peace in his last eight years.

His last manuscript, A Treatise of Christian Doctrine, in Latin, was not found until about 150 years after his death. It reveals Arian views – and a willingness to tolerate polygamy … (Chambers Biographical Dictionary).

Paradise Lost is controversial in its Christian message, subtly presenting Satan as the real hero of the poem. Romantic poet William Blake stated that Milton is “a true Poet, and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

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This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Little One 3

Here is another “Daddy Dialogue” to a little child. Parents may wish to offer something like this to their children.

“Sweetheart, you are such a precious gift into this home. God loves us SO much that He has given YOU to us, to make us so very happy. You are special and precious and mummy and I thank God for giving you to us as our little child.

You know that we love you and that God wants us to train you so you will be everything He wants you to be. But there’s something else I want to tell you about too.

There is a naughty angel who ran away from God. That bad angel wants to help people do the wrong thing, so that God’s heart will be sad. And one of the things that bad angel does is tell God that good people are bad.

That bad angel has already been talking to God about you. He says that you really aren’t a nice person at all. He says that you will do bad things and disobey your mummy and daddy. He says you will be greedy and selfish and that you will try to get your way when you can.

God laughs at the devil’s lies. God knows that He created you to be a wonderful person who loves God and does what is right.

So that’s why I am telling you about this now. Every time you do something wrong the devil will jump up and down and clap his hands. He will laugh at God and say, “See, I told you so!” And God will be sad.

But God knows that even when you do wrong things you can always ask Him to forgive you. He is always happy to forgive you if you are sad about what you have done. When God forgives you it is as if you never ever did the wrong thing at all.

God knows that you will do some wrong things so He is not worried about what the devil says. God wants you to learn how to be strong and He also wants mummy and me to train you.

Mummy and daddy have to train you by punishing you when you do something wrong. We do that because we love you and want to take any foolish ideas out of your heart, so it will be easier and easier for you to make God happy.

Let’s pray together now and tell God that we are not going to do the bad things the devil wants us to do.

“Lord God, thank You that You love us. We know that the devil doesn’t like us and he wants us to do bad things. But we make up our mind that we will only do right things. If we fail and do something that we should not do we will ask You to forgive us. We will ask for Your strength so we can resist all those evil things.

Thank You for loving us and helping us be good people who are happy and free. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

John Haime Fights the Devil

This is the day that … John Haime died in Hampshire, England, in 1784, at the age of 78. In his 70’s his testimony was published by Wesley. It was titled, “A Short Account of God’s Dealings with Mr. John Haime”. Some, however, wonder if Satan should not get a mention in the title, since the devil’s torments on John’s life were enormous.

The exact date of his birth is unknown, but he grew up – in his words – “cursing, swearing, lying and Sabbath-breaking”. Mental torments were part of his life and, in an effort to escape them, he left his wife and children to join the army.

The thought of going to war against the French in 1739 momentarily turned his thoughts Godward, but before long “I was in the depths of despair”. It was after some encounters with the enemy, and what he later believed to be divine deliverance, that Haime found himself with two Methodist soldiers. “We took a room without delay and met every night to pray and read the Holy Scriptures. Some began to listen under the window…”

It was not long before a converted John Haime was preaching to his fellow soldiers. “He talked in such English as a peasant might use, and which peasants would have understood, of sin and judgement, of Christ and His salvation. The crowd about him – war-battered soldiers – hung breathlessly on his lips. They numbered some thousands, the sound of their singing filled the valley. And this scene was repeated in British camps every day – sometimes twice, sometimes thrice a day. The preacher was John Haime …” (Wesley and His Century, by D.W.H. Fitchett, page 226).

Sometimes when the army settled in one place for a time, a wooden tabernacle would be especially built. “I frequently walked between 20 and 30 miles a day,” Haime records, and preached 35 times in the space of seven days. I had at this time three armies against me – the French army, the wicked English army and an army of devils. But I feared them not for my life was hid with Christ in God” (Early Methodist Preachers, [1903], pages 52-53).

The Battle of Fontenoy (11 May, 1745) where the French won a devastating victory, saw Haime’s horse shot from under him. “Someone cried, ‘Haime is gone!’ But I replied, ‘He is not gone yet!’ I had a long way to go (back to camp), the (musket) balls flying on every side. All the way lay multitudes groaning, bleeding, or just dead. Surely I was in the fiery furnace; but it did not singe a hair of my head. I was as full of joy as I could contain.”

Two other mortally wounded preachers sang in celebration of their imminent meeting with their saviour. Another, sensing before the battle that he would be killed, danced a jig in sheer excitement of going to heaven.

Yet Haime had a relapse to his earlier torments, imagining himself as unforgivable and on the brink of hell. Afraid to sleep lest he wake in hell. Even during this continued tussle with the enemy, Haime continued to preach to the lost.

After the war Haime returned to England and met John Wesley for the first time. Wesley even asked Haime to accompany him on some preaching tours.

On his deathbed Haime was heard to say: “This is a good way! Oh, that all may tread this path in the important hour.”

Stories of these soldier-Methodists are as inspiring and challenging as anything one might read in the history of the Church.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Steps to Release via Legal Ground

The Steps to Release which I teach is a checklist of key steps that help a person move into the freedom Christ purchased for them. The steps are to:
Admit Your Need;
Find the Real Problem and its Root Cause;
Repent;
Forgive;
Renounce;
Resist; and
Cast Your Cares on the Lord
.

I noted in my early personal journey into freedom and from watching what happened to others, that it was little use coming into freedom if that freedom could not be maintained. That would be like taking ground off an enemy, only to lose it and have to fight another whole battle to win it back.

The best way to maintain or hold ground that was won was to be thorough in the process of taking that ground. And that’s where ‘legal ground’ comes into focus. If a person has given the enemy a legal right to attack them, then they will re-lose the ground they win.

A visiting minister or a faith-filled moment can see a person come free from a problem. But if the devil still has a legal right to oppress the victim with that problem, it will come back, in one form or another. The recurrence of the problem will be a real downer to the faith of the individual and they may find it harder to win the battle the next time around.

No matter what the problem is I make it a point to clear away the legal ground which may have been given to the enemy. That’s where the three steps of Repent, Forgive and Renounce have their place. Once the problem has been identified it could be easy for a faith-filled person to go straight to battle with the issues. The warrior may well win the battle. But with an open door for the problem to come back there is a serious risk that it will do just that. Jesus even warned that a demon can return bringing even worse demons with it.

“Then he goes and takes to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:26

That’s why I get people to work through these three intermediate steps in the process. So let’s look at these steps which deal with the legal ground.

Repentance leads to God’s forgiveness and the cleansing of our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9

The reason we need to be forgiven and cleansed is because that makes our sin just as if it had never happened. That is important because, if we have sinned we have become the servant of the sin we committed.

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34

If you are a legal servant of a particular sin, then it will be very hard for you to maintain any freedom from it, even if you have experienced a dramatic deliverance. You need to be forgiven of the sin, so it is gone out of your life. Then the legal link of you as a servant of sin has been removed.

The act of giving Forgiveness to those who offended us is also vital in removing the legal grounds of the enemy. If we do not forgive, we block our own forgiveness. When we do not forgive we are handed over to the tormentors.

“But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:26

“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you do not forgive from your hearts every one the trespasses of his brother.” Matthew 18:34, 35

How can you expect to maintain freedom when you have been denied the forgiveness which sets you free and then you have been handed over to a tormentor? You must extend forgiveness to your offenders in order to secure your own forgiveness and to maintain your own release.

Then we come to Renouncing. This is an interesting Bible truth, because it is only mentioned in the Bible on one occasion. The Apostle Paul declared that he had renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.

“But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2Corinthians 4:2

The Greek word translated “renounce” is only used once in the New Testament. Its technical meaning is to “speak off”, as if to revoke something by a verbal pronouncement. When a father disowns his son, and says, “This is no longer my son”, he is renouncing his son. The Moslem form of divorce enacted by a husband repeating the words, “I divorce you”, three times, is also a model of what renouncing could be like.

Paul had ‘spoken off’ the things which were hidden in his life, which made a lie of his testimony or good intentions. In practice today, the process of renunciation (renouncing) involves making a declaration that you are no longer connected to the evil which once ruled in your life. Mostly I simply get people to say, “I renounce the evil” (specifically naming it where possible).

Once these three steps have been worked through I then proceed into the spiritual warfare component of resisting evil, commanding it out of the person’s life. I am confident that the enemy does not have a toe-hold or a hand-grip to cling to, so gaining the release is easier. I am also confident that the freedom that is achieved will be much easier to maintain.

My first article about the Steps To Release gives more understanding of how these steps work.
So have a look at: Steps To Release

For a sample prayer through the steps to release I commend the book, Family Horizons, which is available from www.FamilyHorizons.net

God Looks on the Heart

Man looks on the things that can be seen from the outside – the natural appearances. But God looks on the heart. God’s x-ray vision not only sees the arterial sclerosis which many people carry, undetected, but He also sees the attitudes and the intentions of our heart.

When God looks at your heart He not only sees the condition it is in, but He knows where it is going. God can anticipate your entire eternal outcome, by seeing your heart. Wow!

You ask for chapter and verse? Let me step you through this piece by piece.

Firstly we know that God looks at the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

OK, got that? But when God looks on the heart He not only sees its current condition, such as being filled with anger or joy, but He sees its ‘nature’. That’s how God could declare David to be a man after God’s own heart.

“But now your kingdom will not continue: the LORD has sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be captain over his people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you.” 1Samuel 13:14

At the time Samuel gave this prophetic declaration to King Saul, David was only a boy. Yet God described him as a ‘man’ after God’s own heart. God knew the character of David’s heart. God knew that David was not perfect, for no man is perfect except Jesus Christ, yet God knew that David’s heart would choose to honour God.

In the ensuing years we find David moved to build a house for God. We find David eager to restore the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. We see David unafraid to make a fool of himself in worshipping God. We see David deeply repentant over his sin. We see David willing to fall into the hands of Almighty God and longing for the courts of God. David’s ‘heart’ was set on the pursuit of God.

Despite his adultery, murder, failure as a parent and other sins and weaknesses, David’s heart was known by God to be a true heart of worship and commitment to God. So God could predict the enduring quality of David’s life, from his boyhood.

Men are often duped by the appearances of others. We are impressed with or we ignore people, based on external indicators. But even someone who is excited about God and their own salvation may not have the ‘heart’ for the long haul and the challenges that lie ahead. Jesus taught that some would receive the word of God with joy, but would fall away when they faced trials.

“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” Mark 4:16,17

The devil can’t see our heart. The devil, like us humans, needs external evidence to know what is going on. We see that in the exchange over God’s favoured servant, Job. God knew Job’s heart and so God confidently boasted in Job. The devil, however, could not see Job’s heart and assumed that Job’s love for God was motivated for selfish reasons.

“And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?” Job 1:8,9

God allowed the devil to bring Job under great affliction, to prove Job’s heart. God had no doubt about the outcome, because He could already see the quality of Job’s heart.

By the way, that’s how God is able to ensure that we are not tempted with anything that is beyond us. God knows where each of us is up to and what we can endure, at our heart level.

Note too that the devil wanted to sift Peter like wheat, to see what rubbish there was inside him which the devil could exploit (Luke 22:31). The devil can’t see what’s in there, so he has to go on a fishing expedition to see what he can dredge up.

Since the ‘heart’ is the ‘heart of the matter’ we are warned to diligently guard our heart.

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

David prayed to God to give him a right heart, and we do well to pray that prayer as well.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10