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.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
It is God’s infinitely wise arrangement that whatever is really valuable shall be won by persevering effort. This is a law applied to all classes of good, both temporal and eternal. Each man has his reward, but he must conquer. In perfect accord with this law are the provisions for eternal life. He who possesses it must be a conqueror. Salvation is the free gift of God, but it must be striven for. We are to understand the facts of revelation as they affect us. God’s word comes calling our attention and challenging our rational belief. Our interest demands the utmost effort for examination. This being done, my relation to God is discerned, and the condition of my heart and my life is revealed. To overcome, I must repent and make restitution. I must have faith in Jesus Christ and love to God. This is delightful but it is not so easy. We cannot love God unless we know Him. We are to study His attributes and hold communion with Him. Then there are temptations to overcome. It is the overcomer who inherits.
From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle, and fight, and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day:
Still let the Spirit cry
In all His soldiers, “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord descend from high
And take the conquerors home.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
There is nothing so touchingly beautiful as a sinner coming to Jesus—the impure to the pure, the weak to the strong. The church is slow to take in the fact that Jesus is the Savior of sinners, and that impurity or sins of darkest hue are not a barrier in the way of a sinner coming to Jesus. This was the teaching of Jesus. He came to destroy the works of the devil. Simon the Pharisee had neglected some of the common courtesies to his Guest. This poor woman with a heart of love washed His feet with her tears and anointed Him with her precious ointment. Jesus said, “Simon, you never conceived yourself to be much of a sinner; a Savior could not be much to you.” It is always so to the self-righteous. Jesus is a Savior only to the sin-stricken. Such find their way to His feet. Jesus is a Savior no farther than a man feels his loss. That I am a sinner is my claim on Jesus as a Savior. If we are sinners we have a Savior.
Of Him who did salvation bring,
I could forever think and sing;
Arise, ye needy,—He’ll relieve;
Arise, ye guilty,—He’ll forgive.
Ask but His grace, and lo, ‘tis given;
Ask, and He turns your hell to heaven:
Though sin and sorrow wound my soul,
Jesus, Thy balm will make it whole.
For if thou altogether boldest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
I wish to call attention to fidelity to opportunity. Opportunity, whether it be in an oriental palace or a western cottage, whether it be on a Persian throne or in the Church of the Nazarene. Fidelity to opportunity means as much to you and to me today as it did to Esther in that day. The great opportunity of a human life is to say the eternal “Yes” to Jesus Christ. Did you hear what the Master said in reference to His own life as He came to the great crisis, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world”? Man’s life has but one great purpose. Thy life has but one great end, and that is, to say the eternal “Yes” to God. The one great opportunity of thy life is not education: it is not worldly position; it is not morality; it is not a form of godliness; it is not a place in the Church, pulpit, or pew. The great opportunity is to say this eternal “Yes.”
Before the Cross of Him who died,
Behold, I prostrate fall;
Let every sin be crucified,
Let Christ be all in all.
Let every thought, and work, and word,
To Thee be ever given;
Then life shall be Thy service, Lord,
And death the gate of heaven!
See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
The patterns of ideals of the Christian Church and Christian society are of heavenly origin, and are given us by revelation. The life and teaching of Jesus Christ are the coming of a new morning to the life of the race. He gave to the world a new pattern; He presented to the world new ideals of manhood and living; He was a voice out of the infinite silence, telling us of being and doing. He gave us these, not so much by dogmatic teaching, or theoretic statement, as by the lifting of a new firmament of moral living. It was the revelation around our race, of a new universe of thought and fact and moral living, from which we are to evoke into our consciousness, every one for himself, the new ideals of character and life. Christ Jesus is the pattern that has been shown us in the mount of revelation. He who has not learned to look up and see the great Ideal has missed the best conditions of life, of both education and culture. You are to be faithful to the Pattern, and build the facts founds in human instincts and intuitions and in revelation, by the grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
—T. O. Chisholm
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
Man’s outer life is in perfect accord with the condition of his heart. His heart is his treasure casket where he gathers his jewels and from whence he brings them forth for weal or woe. Every man’s life, both in itself and in its influence upon others, is the aggregated and blended gatherings of all the years of his past life. The first thing for us to do, who, as believers in gospel truth are determined to make the most of our condition and destiny, is to become good and make pure the casket where the gathered facts of life are to commingle. There is but one gospel standard of moral excellence and that is purity. There is but one way to attain purity and that is by faith in the blood of Jesus. The very fact of his purification brings him vast treasure. There is the presence of the Sanctifier and the treasure of revelation. A man so recreated and transformed can but have his life poured out like ointment, whose influence shall be pure and holy.
How sweet, how heavenly is the sight,
When those who love the Lord
In one another’s peace delight,
And so fulfill His word.
When each can feel his brother’s sigh,
And with him bear a part!
When sorrow flows from every eye,
And joy from heart to heart.
What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul was the slave of Jesus Christ because he wanted to be, because he prized the privilege more than any and every thing in the world. He never dragged himself at the chariot wheels of duty to be a Christian. From the first day that he saw the Lord on the Damascus road until the day when he said “I am now ready to be offered,” his heart beat in passionate longing to be and to do His will. There is very little about duty in his sermons or epistles, but much about privilege and blessing and glory and heavenly places. When Jesus Christ was revealed to him and he knew that He was the Son of God the Redeemer of the world, it was unthinkable that there could be any question about his life. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer, then there is but one place for me, and that is in His bosom. He surrendered himself to Jesus the moment that He was made known to him. He started on for Damascus, a forgiven, saved, commissioned man. The vision was a doorway opened in the heavens through which some things were seen. He saw that Jesus was the Son of God, that He was crucified, dead and buried, and that He had risen and ascended into heaven.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The head must have the helmet of salvation. A man’s thinking is to be under the protection of the salvation of Jesus Christ. Right thinking is of great importance, and the sword of the enemy is ever ready to fall upon the brow. Thought is to be in captivity to Jesus Christ and protected by His salvation. The onslaught of the devil is likely to come through your thinking. The devil and the world are mighty intellectual forces, and they charge upon the thinking of men with reasonings, false philosophy, half truths, doubts, and errors. Salvation is a great defense to right thinking. It brings into experience great facts, and clears the intellectual vision. It insures intellectual honesty, imparts the spirit of wisdom and judgment, and is to thought like a helmet to the head. Then there is the sword, which is the Word of God. This is the weapon that pierces the enemy. And we are to be sure about the artillery—praying always. There is no telling what you can do with this artillery.
Stand, then, in His great might,
With all His strength endued;
But take to arm you for the fight
The panoply of God:
That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone,
And stand entire at last.