Phineas F. Bresee (1838-1915) is best known as the founder of the Nazarene Church. Aside from the church, one of the best things that he left for posterity was the year-long devotional Soul Food for Today (which even this was compiled and published posthumously). Following is a week’s worth of devotions from his book.
If this week proves to be good for you, a copy of this devotional can be purchased here.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. —2 Timothy 2:3-4
The fact is here pressed upon us that the Lord Jesus hath chosen us to be soldiers. You are called to lift high the banner of holiness, to preach the blessing of Christ, and lead men and women into its fullness. We are soldiers, called out, volunteers for most difficult orders, for glorious work. We are to be a band like Gideon’s. God said, in choosing us, “If there be any attractions that can draw you away, go now. If old associations or tastes or ease or respectability are likely to affect you, you are not of this company. If you do not so hear the call of God that you cannot well be anywhere else, you have not fully the spirit of this work.” It is the call of God to proclaim holiness without compromise. It is to be filled with an intensity and enthusiasm that overmasters natural tastes, desires, and conveniences. We are called to be God’s prophets, to cry aloud and spare not, to show the people their sins and lead them to Jesus Christ.
Am I a soldier of the Cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
The Master is come, and calleth for thee. —John 11:28
There are two facts which bear upon your life, which are the most potential of all in shaping your destiny. The first is that Jesus the Master has come. In connection with the Holy Ghost whom the Father has sent and whom He ministers, Jesus Christ our Lord and Master has come. Do you ask for evidence that He has come? Look at the holy work that is being done in human hearts and lives. Hear the testimony of those who have received Him. He calleth for thee. To what does He call you? Not to disappointment. This world lures you in many ways and every path will disappoint. They seem green and bright, but the flowers will fade, the grass will die, the waters will dry up, the birds will cease to sing, and the desert will be about you. The Master calls you to the path of life, into His own presence where there is fullness of joy, to His right hand where there are pleasures forevermore. He calls you away from sin to the precious rest and joy of His love. He calls you by His Spirit to a life as sweet as heaven. Mary arose quickly and came to Jesus. Will you follow Him as readily?
God calling yet! and shall I give
No heed, but still in bondage live?
I wait, but He does not forsake;
He calls me still; my heart, awake!
God calling yet! I cannot stay;
My heart I yield without delay:
Vain world, farewell, from thee I part;
The voice of God hath reached my heart.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. —Hebrews 11:27
While the religion of Jesus Christ is the sweetest, gladdest, richest, most blessed, as well as the most necessary and essential thing that pertains to human life, yet there are some things to be endured in connection with it. The inevitable result of salvation is war with the world and with the devil. It takes on different forms according to the age and country in which we live. While the position and condition of the enemy changes, the nature of the enemy never changes; nor does the nature of salvation change. The admonition, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” is just as necessary to Christian life today as it was in the beginning. Salvation is not to be endured, but enjoyed; but he who will have it must fight the good fight. Jesus said, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” He said that before the cross represented anything about the atonement, but was simply an instrument of death. It means, let him be ready to die for me.
Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame;
Nor let thy foolish pride rebel;
Thy Lord for thee the cross endured,
To save thy soul from death and hell.
Take up thy cross, then, in His strength,
And calmly every danger brave;
‘Twill guide thee to a better home,
And lead to victory o’er the grave.
—Charles W. Everett
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. —John 17:22
This embodiment of glory, whatever it may mean, is for the whole church. What is the glory to which He refers? The glory of achievement, or of working for the race, and with divinely imparted conditions and forces which mean its accomplishment. The first part of achievement is character, In work as everywhere else the effect is not greater than the cause. So if you look for the achievement of Jesus Christ you will find it first in His character. The manhood of Jesus Christ was not the product of the age. It was so glorious in its humanity that it glorifies our humanity forever. The first element of this character was its evident and earnest devotion. Then there was his passionate enthusiasm for humanity. These are elements of character which mean achievement in a new line. To Him it was given to put His heart of sympathy and understanding in closest fellowship with humanity. It was the power to love much. The chief glory that God gives to His servants is not emotion, but the power to love and feel for men, to proclaim to them the words of life. The great glory of Pentecost was not the visible fire or the intoxicating joy, but the power to preach the Word so that men were converted.
Oh, the cross has wondrous glory!
Oft I’ve proved this to be true;
When I’m in the way so narrow,
I can see a pathway through;
And how sweetly Jesus whispers:
Take the cross, thou need’st not fear,
For I’ve tried the way before thee,
And the glory lingers near.
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? —John 6:9
There is a small basket with a boy’s lunch—five barley loaves and two small fishes. The question is asked, “What are they?” Who can answer the question? The possibilities of these five biscuits and two minnows could be easily compassed; but what impossibilities Christ may put into them, who can tell? To feed five thousand men, beside the women and children, with this provision is absurdly impossible. But Jesus Christ can do impossible things. If He was shut in by possibilities, there could be no incarnation, no atonement, no resurrection from the dead, no cleansing from sin, no eternal life. If the children of the kingdom are shut in to the doing of possibilities, the world cannot be turned upside down, dead formality can never be shaken, the work of holiness can never be triumphant. Philip’s question involved much more than he knew: not only their utter inadequacy for the work in hand, but it involved capacity for the manifestation of Divine power.
Peace, troubled soul, thou need’st not fear;
Thy great Provider still is near;
Who fed thee last, will feed thee still;
Be calm, and sink into His will.
The Lord, who built the earth and sky,
In mercy stoops to hear thee cry;
His promise all may freely claim:
Ask and receive in Jesus’ name.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. —Acts 1:8
Jesus, the great Teacher and Savior, going away said that I was to witness to all men. The Lord deals with us in our individual capacities, but sets us in families for efficiency. Each has its peculiar work. We as a people have a special and peculiar work. The Lord needed a people through whom the testimony of the power of the blood could be given. We were thrust out with a testimony. We did not go out for a new ecclesiasticism, nor because we were out of harmony in doctrine, but because we had a testimony. A great, new, enlarged life had been given us. It was a piece of new cloth which we tried to sew onto the robes of the church and the rent was made worse. It was new wine and we poured it into the bottles of our ecclesiasticism and they burst and let us out. The loud, earnest calls from lands without the gospel have been so persistent and some of our people have been so moved by it that we have found ourselves undertaking that work. What Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary, and Joseph’s empty tomb mean to us is the measure of our intensity to testify it to all men.
Go, ye messengers of God;
Like the beams of morning, fly;
Take the wonder-working rod;
Wave the banner-cross on high.
Bear the tidings round the ball,
Visit every soil and sea;
Preach the Cross of Christ to all,
Christ, whose love is full and free.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. —Isaiah 53:4-5
The long finger of prophecy points to the Cross. The ages turn their gaze upon it. The heart of our strangely sinning race sighs for the Cross. Believing souls wait under its tragic scene until their hearts have not only been broken, but comforted, and they have felt within themselves the fact of His sacrificial death and the healing, purifying, life-giving power of this wonderful sacrifice. Wherever the story of His sufferings and death has been told it has thrilled the heart of the world. The Prince of life would never have trod this earth but to save us from the condemnation, the griefs, the sorrows of sin. We linger around the Cross. The darkness that rested on Salem’s hillsides has died away. The mellow light of a brighter morning has come and has already melted into a glorious noontide. The Cross means a new life, a life of highest, sweetest joy.
Hail, Thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, Thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us,
Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail Thou agonizing Savior,
Bearer of our sin and shame!
By Thy merits we find favor;
Life is given through Thy name.