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, and just in time for you to order a copy for the new year, whether for yourself or a loved one.
We’re titling this post “Part 1” since it is likely that another week of entries will make it to the blog in the future.
You can purchase a copy of this devotional here.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. —Romans 15:13
If I go to the dictionary, I learn that hope means desire with more or less expectation. The Bible is wonderfully larger than the dictionary; it illuminates words; it gives new scope and meaning to them; it intensifies and sets them on fire; it turns them into new channels of power. When God put His face into this word hope, it came to mean infinite things. Hope is the soul reaching out her hands; reaching toward an object. Hope is the soul’s gaze, with longing and expectancy. Hope must have its object. David is the world’s poet with a divine inspiration. He saw deeper into the soul’s need—and into the only source of supply—than all the ancients. In crucial moments there came to him the divine voice. In moments of great darkness there dawned upon him the eternal Sunrise, and he uttered those words of the new life, “Thou art my hope, O Lord God.” Ten thousand times better than all earth has to give is the favor of God and the hope of seeing Him as He is.
Rejoicing now in earnest hope,
I stand, and from the mountain top
See all the land below:
Rivers of milk and honey rise,
And all the fruits of paradise
In endless plenty grow.
Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. —John 18:37
Jesus was not a king in any ordinary sense. He did not reign in social life. He had no ecclesiastical or political rule. Jesus’ kingship is in blood, atoning blood; blood that pays the penalty for sin, and that takes away the stain of sin. It is blood that ever cleanses, and speaks in power for every soul. It was His to make atonement; to establish forever the fact of His Messiahship. “To this end was I born.” All of the forces of Christian life are to one purpose, and converge to one point, and that is to bear witness to atoning blood. To what end is a Christian man in this world? In any world? To what purpose is he saved; to lift his feet from the brink of hell; to take him out of sin; to take sin out of him? Yes; but why this? Are men just saved at infinite cost to set up on a shelf and feel good? No! They are taken into the heart of Jesus; into His life; into His ministry. The great master-passion of Christian life is to testify to the blood of Jesus. To me has come the marvelous blessing of a clean heart. My business is to tell sin-cursed men of the cleansing blood.
The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor’s brow.
The highest place that heaven affords,
Is to our Jesus given;
The King of kings, the Lord of lords,
He reigns o’er earth and heaven.
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. —Luke 2:15–16
There is nothing which ever occurs in human life anything like so wonderful as the discovery of the Christ. It is a personal discovery. I found Him for myself. It is an individual discovery. Everyone is enriched and glorified by his own discovery. His name is abroad in the earth. Men and angels have sung His praises. It remains for every one to say for himself, “Let us now go and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” There was no tarrying, but they went with haste. It is worthwhile. It is the one supreme thing, haste, earnestness, intensity. Has the world’s Redeemer come? Attention! O my soul. Attention! Every needy man. He has been crowned our ascended Lord; but more wonderful, He has come again in unlimited glory and power to set up His kingdom. Christ is personally known. He is found by them who seek.
He has come! He has come! My Redeemer has come,
He has taken my heart as His own chosen home:
At last I have given the welcome He sought,
He has come, and His coming all gladness has brought.
He has come! He has come! O happiest heart,
He has given His word that He will not depart;
No trouble can enter, no evil can come
To the heart where the God of peace has His home.
—Mrs. J. H. Knowles
We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. —Matthew 2:2
This is the way of His worship. Born by a new, celestial birth, we no longer grovel for earthly things; but our souls rise in adoration to Him, who ever lives, and who has come as the King of glory to make His home with us. Literally, three margins say, “We come to do homage to him.” Reverence was in their souls. Trust a man who has reverence for something that he considers greater and better than himself. Put a high price on reverence. No man can be trusted who has no reverence in his being. You see a little child kneeling by its bed. Honor the child. You see a man bow his head sometimes when others talk, and his lips move unconsciously. Honor him. We are here to worship the Christ of God, He whose name is called Jesus, because He saves His people from their sins. We worship Him, the only being who ever came into this world with the only purpose of ridding the world of sin, who took upon Himself the vast program, and came for the purpose of carrying it out. He who is born into and lives in the hearts of those who love Him; Him we worship.
Bright was the guiding star that led,
With mild, benignant ray,
The Gentiles to the lowly bed
Where the Redeemer lay.
But lo! A brighter, clearer light
Now points to His abode;
It shines through sin and sorrow’s night,
To guide us to our God.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6
I never cease to wonder at Jesus’ teachings along the lines of social science. How amid all the deep, dark labyrinths into which the world has fallen, He brought out that one great law of love, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” and when asked who is our neighbor, that He should have destroyed all lines, barriers, distances, and differences and pressed the needy, the suffering, the perishing up closest to us. He did it all in that marvelous story of the man who fell among thieves, which not only teaches all this, but rings itself with heavenly melody into the soul, where it continues to ring in sweetest music the divinest truth. This wonderful Teacher puts supreme social ethics into a sentence, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Crown Him the Lord of peace!
Whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
And all be prayer and praise:
His reign shall know no end,
And round His pierced feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. —Mark 16:15
All privilege is duty and all duty is privilege. Gospel, good news, tidings. Preach, proclaim. Ye, the bearer. These three words are forever linked together by the power of God. The greatest of all is that which embodies the great fact itself, which is the fountain of the stream, which is the essence of the tidings—Gospel. This message is a truth, but it is more than truth: it is a message which is a person. We do not preach about Christ, but we preach Him. He goes with us to be introduced to men. We preach Christ. He is with His messenger to be accepted or rejected. In apostolic Christianity there was one preliminary thing, and that was the baptism with the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ definitely told His disciples not to go to this work until the Holy Ghost had come upon them. The great fact in this text, in this world, in this universe—God in Christ, and Christ in you by the Holy Ghost, making you the mouthpiece of eternal love, that He may speak through you.
Go forth, ye heralds, in My name,
Sweetly the gospel trumpet sound;
The glorious jubilee proclaim,
Where’er the human race is found.
The joyful news to all impart,
And teach them where salvation lies;
With care bind up the broken heart,
And wipe the tears from weeping eyes.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. —Ephesians 4:30
The seal is a token of safety. It is stated in Revelation that when the angel of destruction was to go forth to destroy in this wicked earth, God said, “Wait, hurt not the earth, till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads.” What shall harm God’s anointed ones? Nothing but separation. And what shall separate us? Paul says, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us.” We can only grieve the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Ghost is witness that you are genuine, that you are authentic, and that the things you utter are true. By what authority doest thou these things? By what authority do I preach the gospel? There is not power enough in all the combined forces of men on earth to convict one soul. But the Holy Ghost in a human soul will convict men all about.
Lord, I am Thine, entirely Thine,
Purchased and saved by blood divine;
With full consent Thine I would be,
And own Thy sovereign right in me.
Thine would I live, Thine would I die,
Be Thine through all eternity;
The vow is past beyond repeal,
And now I set the solemn seal.