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.
Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. —Luke 14:23
The kingdom of heaven is a great supper, a wedding feast for the King’s Son. The gospel of Jesus is God’s rich provision for men. In it are the necessaries of life and the luxuries of God for the soul. Righteousness is the necessity of life. For the lack of it life is a failure everywhere. To go out into the highways and hedges and compel, or constrain, them to come in is the final method which we are to use. Are we the servants of the King, properly commissioned and empowered to gather guests for the marriage supper of the Lamb? This is not a priestly or ministerial office. It is a matter with the servants of the Lord. A servant is one who tarries at His bidding, or who runs and toils at His bidding. The highways and hedges are the places where there are those who have not heard or who have not been pressed with the privileges of the gospel. We are to go to them with the gospel of holiness and constrain them by. love and kindness. There is work for all in this mission of mercy.
Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed,
Ye restless wanderers after rest;
Ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.
My message, as from God receive;
Ye all may come to Christ and live:
O let this love your hearts constrain,
Nor suffer Him to die in vain.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. —Ruth 1:16–17
Ruth’s devotion was a natural affection, but much more. There rises above her love for Naomi a grasping of the truths of the religion she possessed. Hers was more than a sentiment. It was an earnest soul’s grasp after the Divine. It is the same as is felt by every honest, earnest man as he recognizes his duty and privilege in the light of revelation. There was a deep, abiding devotion to God and His cause. That human hearts should thus tenaciously grasp revealed religion is not strange. Naomi, in her noble, devout character, was a result of the dispensation under which she lived, and as such stands as a representative of the Church. Ruth, in her enthusiastic devotion to the light which had penetrated to her heathen home, and to her who had borne it, was a type of the honest convert. What we want, and what God wants, is men and women attracted to the Cross.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds,
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. —Luke 17:20–21
The kingdom of God is within you. This is the supreme utterance. It crowns personality. It is almost unthinkable how the gospel honors personality. How it lifts up the individual man; not only God’s last and greatest work, and the object of redeeming love; but he is to be the embodiment of it all in his own being. I would that for one moment we might see, in the light of divine vision, this marvelous being called man, made in the divine image, and restored and filled with the glory of divine personality. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. These are the conditions of the soil and air and sunshine of the soul; the kingdom is divine. The King of heaven is on the throne. His ministries of life are in every part of the vast domain. His government goes out from Himself. His one law is love; love so burning that nothing contrary to it can for a moment live in its flame.
There’s a theme that is sweet to my mem’ry,
There’s a joy that I cannot express,
There’s a treasure that gladdens my being,
‘Tis the kingdom of God’s righteousness.
‘Tis a kingdom of peace; it is reigning within,
It shall ever increase in my soul;
We possess it right here when He saves from all sin,
And ‘twill last while the ages shall roll.
—B. E. Warren
Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. —Luke 9:24
There is a kind of success which is failure. It is here clearly stated that for one to save his life is to lose it. It seems evident that the purpose and aim are such that no matter what the methods are they can never bring success. The things which the world regards as success are without the elements of real success. It is like searching for silver or gold where there is no vein, or for life where there is only death. A man has succeeded, things go his way, his coffers are full and his barns bursting, his blood runs red with triumph; but there is a hand writing “failure” on the wall, There is a failure which is success. He that will lose his life shall save it. The key to this paradox may be in this expression of volition—will. The act of saving or losing seems to be a volitional act. It assumes that there is a life which is a way of loss of earthly success which is super-excellent in its success. It is by a covenant with Christ to put Him first in all things.
Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.
—Henry F. Lyte
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. —2 Corinthians 1:21–22
What are the ways by which God establishes us? By filling the mind with revealed truth. Many perish for want of knowledge. Ignorance of the Word is inexcusable. Then He calls on us to demonstrate the truth we have received. The Father is willing to give the Holy Ghost to help us. The Word tells us, “If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine.” It is deeper and more mysterious than any scientific discovery, but God shows us the solution. He also establishes us by giving us great opportunities for constant work. The soldier is made strong by the camp and the battle. We are not made strong by one effort, however great. It is by continual exercise that we grow strong. He establishes us by surrounding us with difficulties. It is one of God’s arrangements that we shall become strong by overcoming difficulties. He hath anointed us. God not only establishes us and gives us strength, but He anoints us with the oil of joy. This anointing restores us when we are faint, heals our ills, and creates in our souls a Divine beauty.
In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
—Anna L. Warring
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. —Revelation 2:10
Today we stand by the mount of vision. We see the blessings and benedictions of the past. We see the great company of warriors for God and truth, and our own position in the ranks. We mark our glorious Captain with His vesture dipped in blood, and His garments like his who treadeth the winepress, the sword flashing from His mouth as He treads sin and wickedness under His feet. As He turns His infinitely loving face along the lines, He says, as He looks upon us, “Be thou faithful.” He does not say, “Feel good.” He is solicitous for our comfort, but these are the days of battle. Tonight thou art on picket duty. Today thou art in the midst of battle. You may be weary, sick, and faint. You may be in heaviness, but don’t be a coward or a traitor. Don’t turn your back to the foe. Don’t forsake the post where the mighty Christ has placed you. The first work in life is to be Christ’s faithful friend. The measure of this faithfulness is unto death. This is not the length of our service, but the measure of our devotion. And I will give thee a crown of life.
O what are all my sufferings here,
If, Lord, Thou count me meet
With that enraptured host to appear,
And worship at Thy feet!
Give joy or grief, give ease or pain,
Take life or friends away,
But let me find them all again
In that eternal day.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord. —Luke 12:35–36
The ideal time-piece is one that will keep exact time with the heavenly bodies. The great end of the Christian life is to have the heart so regulated that it will keep time with the Sun of righteousness. A man’s life is as the hands of the clock. It tells whether the machinery is all right. If your clock loses time you can turn up the hands once in a while and keep it along, but the proper way is to have it cleaned and regulated. A one-sided clock is useless. If it is all wheels, though they may be very nice, it is of no practical value. If it is all face, ever so nice a face with fine hands, it may be right twice a day, but it is of no value. The Christian life has its inner side. There is personal loyalty to God for His own sake and faith in Him for the sake of what He is and for my need. Jesus is to me the divine Savior who comes and dwells in my soul. But no man liveth unto himself. With this ever new divine life burning within him his relations to men are changed. He manifests the Spirit of Christ to those around him.
May our lights be always burning,
And our loins be girded round,
Waiting for our Lord’s returning,
Longing for the welcome sound.
Thus the Christian life adorning,
Never need we be afraid,
Should He come at night or morning,
Early dawn, Or evening shade.
—David E. Ford