He that dwelleth in the secret, hidden, defensed place of the most High, in the shadowed defense of the Almighty shall he be lodged for the night. This is my more literal translation of the first verse of Psalm 91. What maturing Christian does not know the sense of needing this secret place of the Most High during pressing times in life? Likely referring to Isaiah 32:2, E. Clephane, near to her deathbed, referred to the cross of Jesus as “…a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way, from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.”
Sometimes I get the sense that our small work at 350 West 26th Street, Manhattan and other Bible ministries around the world are little shelters in the midst of a cold, dark and despairing land full of lies. Like Bunyan’s inn, into which the weary pilgrims came for refreshment and recreation, so is the church to believers. God himself is the sanctuary in which we, as the church, reside.
Pastor Bill just finished his sermon series through the Sermon on the Mount this afternoon. (Our church meets at three in the afternoon, Sundays.) With Ryan no longer here to preach the Saturday chapel service, Pastor Bill has started the series again for the Thursday and Saturday chapel crowds. Many of the people who attend our chapel services do not come on Sundays, so this teaching will be new to them. At the same time, a good few who know us through our chapel services now also come on Sundays on a regular or semi-regular basis. Some are believers. Some may not be, as yet, converted, but they are desperate for the Word, struggling with sin, perhaps not yet knowing within themselves how to come to faith in Christ and repentance. Some seem only peripherally-interested. Some are maturing Christians who are glad not only to attend but also to help in the ministry in Manhattan.
We’ve had a week of warmth, but the cold returns this coming week. When will all this ice melt?
One of our regular attendees, saved within the last year or so, operates a small food pantry on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This pantry, on which certain lower-income people are coming to rely, is supplied completely from the excess of food donated to New York Gospel Mission. On the evening of February 16, the operator went out, not feeling well, burdened with his mother’s being sick in the hospital, to run the pantry for people who’d been waiting in line since 3:30. This operator is the same man with whom I have a Bible study most Friday nights now. Several months ago, he remarked to me that “…this food pantry is great and all. We’re able to do a good thing for people in need, but it just seems empty without the Word.” Pray therefore that our Bible study would be profitable and that God would add people to it, if that be His will at this time. Pray that the Word would run and be glorified in the Lower East Side, an area whose population, generally as a culture, often lacks commitment. Pray for believers there to be strong in the Word and faith and in naming the name of Christ and speaking his doctrine.
Pray also for a man who desperately wants freedom from a besetting sin. A regular attendee at our chapel and church services, he rides transit from an hour away to sit under the preaching of the Word here. Just as he prepared to take classes from a free online Bible institute, Satan threw a fiery dart at him, and he is desperately lonely, guilt-ridden, and sad. This man has made a profession of faith in Christ. Pray that God would help him to be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus and that he would overcome through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of his testimony of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would look out for him, surround him with assurances in Christ, and not let him utterly fall. Pray that God would work the love of purity and commitment to discipleship within this one who has openly confessed his sins to our staff here and is actively seeking to be extricated from them.
As Charles Wesley once wrote, may it be true in the case of many here:
"Shake off the dust that blinds thy sight, And hides the promise from thine eyes; Arise, and struggle into light, The great Deliverer calls: Arise!" These lines once fit my own situation very well also.
Using the same words as George Whitfield, I told the congregation Tuesday that "I am concerned for your souls," and also that I would that every one of them come to Christ. I want them to know the sure dwelling place of a relationship with God in Christ.