21 September 2010

Good news from a far country

by Dan Phillips

Perhaps you heard a rumor that I'm fond of the book of Proverbs.

True fact!

In that book we read:
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country
(Proverbs 25:25)
There's an obvious sense to that proverb, with many resultant applications. I've long thought that the Gospel was the best news from the farthest country, though whether Solomon had that in mind is a knotty question. Regardless, it's the nature of Proverbs that legitimate application can be made to various situations, such as a word from a general to his king via runner (1 Samuel 18:25), a letter from loved ones to a soldier, God's message to a lost world of salvation in Christ, or God's assurance of eternal, covenanted love to His own chosen ones.

I was thinking anew of what terrific news from a far country the Gospel is as I drove in to work Monday morning. Let me 'splain.

Friday morning I was in a terrible mood. Poor evening preceding, poor sleep, not a great start to the day, and over it all a simply sepulchrally hideous mood.

On the way to work, I prayed, in that I addressed myself to God and said things to Him — but it wasn't pretty. It will not be reprinted in Beyond the Valley of Vision, I can assure you. It was a pouring out of what was within, pretty much as Jesus said happens (Luke 6:45). There was no happy ending. Less Psalm 5 and more Psalm 44, if you catch my drift.

Started my workday in a foul mood, and within an hour, I learned of a brain-shreddingly, shinbone-whackingly stupid miscalculation I'd made, and... and, well, Dear Reader, we'll let the camera mercifully fade to black at this point.

Look! Puppies!

Fast-forward to Monday morning. Even though things didn't start out that great, even though something over the weekend had nicked my heart pretty good, and even though I didn't have that great of a sleep again, I'm really in a pretty terrific mood. Even another stupid thing I did didn't dampen it. I'm pretty happy. My prayer is a bit prettier.

What's the point?

First, the lesser point. This is the thing Charismatics don't understand, when the rubber meets the road. It comes up again and again and again. "But what about my expeeeeeerience?"

Well, what about my experience — indeed, experiences? Which was reality? Which should affect my doctrine, my view of the Christian life, my approach to Christianity? Upon which should I repose, rest my weight? The way I felt Friday, or the way I felt Monday? Which one was God talking to me?

The Biblical Christian's answer, of course, is: neither.

In fact, I'll go as far as to say, thank GOD, neither!  (I mean to develop this further in another post, someday.)

Now, the greater point. Monday just had me praising and thanking God that my basis for having a hope in God, for believing I have a relationship with God, for trusting that I have a joyous and hopeful future with God, was exactly the same Friday in the midst of my Marianis Trench moments, and remained exactly the same Monday, when there's a bit more of a song in my heart.

What's the basis? Of course, it is Jesus Christ, and the wonder of His salvation. It is expressed in that hymn about which I have reservations, apart from this refrain:
It is enough that Jesus died
and that He died for me.
My hope rests entirely, utterly, solely and completely on Jesus Christ. If He isn't a very good Savior then, friends and neighbors, your correspondent is doomed and damned, and utterly without hope. But praise God, He's called "Savior" (Titus 1:4) precisely because He's very good at saving. In fact, in our idiom we'd say that "Savior" is His middle name — except it's actually His only name (Matthew 1:21).

So Friday, when I was miserable and unhappy and angry and frustrated, God loved me for Christ's sake. He looked on Christ, and pardoned me.

And Monday, when I was happier and more grateful and more rejoicing... God loved me for Christ's sake. He looked on Christ, and pardoned me.

Now isn't that amazingly good news from a far country?

How sad that, if you read this and you haven't made peace with God on His terms, in Jesus Christ alone, you know nothing of that good news as a personal possession. Everything you think you have, everything that is making you happy today, is illusory and passing.

Ah, but if you have, if you've fled to the one refuge which is the Lord Jesus, then that good news from the Far Country is your good news. Regardless of your mood, regardless of your experience.

Grab a hold of it come what may, then, and don't ever let go.

Dan Phillips's signature


Magister Stevenson said...

How fitting that we should go from the offense of the cross yesterday to the sweetness of the cross today--without changing timezones.
Thank you for the punchy reminder.

Tom said...

DJP wrote: "Upon which should I repose, rest my weight? The way I felt Friday, or the way I felt Monday? Which one was God talking to me?

The Biblical Christian's answer, of course, is: neither.

Actually, the correct answer is BOTH.

Alice said...

I have been at the highs and lows myself lately. It is good to know we have a ROCK to hold onto.

DJP said...

Everyone, welcome first-time reader Tom.

No, Tom. Emphatically, definitely, absolutely dead-wrong. The Bible is God speaking to me. There is no Biblical warrant for your answer, to put it too mildly.

Thomas Louw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ansel 'Cap' Capstin said...


Thank you.

Gov98 said...

Amen and Amen

J♥Yce Burrows said...


David Regier said...

Since we're hymning-

My faith is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Resting on an accomplished promise is so much better than resting on a goosebump.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this reminder Dan.

Been going through a bit of a time at our church over the past year, and this very thought has often been a comfort to me.

I coincides directly and necessarily with that line that we so often hear, and so often don't quite believe...God is still on the throne.

Word verification...gullsin. Well yes they do, but the government still won't let us kill them. (Although we still do from time to time...)

Tom said...


You're wrong on two counts. 1) I'm not a first-time reader (or poster). 2) I'm not wrong.

If God uses the heavens to declare his glory, and the sky above to proclaim his handiwork, then he can and does use his providences in my life to teach me about him.


Anonymous said...

Oh please, can we not derail a perfectly wonderful post that, frankly, we all need to hear pretty much every day, in favour of a discussion of what has already been laid out?

Over and over and over again.

DJP said...

Thanks, Daryl.

Then Tom, so much for giving you the benefit of the doubt. This leaves only an issue of reading comprehension, of this blog and (far more consequentially) the Bible. You will find not one shred of Biblical evidence pointing the Christian to shifting seasons within or without for the purpose of divining God's disposition. Biblical Christianity points people to Christ and God's Word.

What you are advocating is a different religion than Christianity. God grant that you repent of it.

Anonymous said...

Dan, great post..thanks. Reminds me of the Christian comedian that said that there were days that he didn't "feel" saved. But, blessed be our God and Savior who places the foundation of our salvation on the finished work of Christ rather than on our feelings.

Side note: Wouldn't "True fact" be a bit of an oxymoron? A fact is a fact is it not? Alas, I cavil too much. :-)

Chris H said...


If I may suggest, perhaps the confusion is in the use of the word, "teach." God's Word teaches us about who He is, and who we are in Him; events in my life (and the Heavens) demonstrate those teachings to me. I could consider them as object lessons that reinforce what the Bible has told me - and which I am often too thick to realise.

Robert said...


Thank you for this reminder. I am currently dealing with some unrepented sin and while I am experiencing the pain of His chastisement now, I know that I am God's child and He is pulling me from this in a way that exposes the vileness of sin. Even through this experience, I know that God is sovereign and Jesus' perfect life and atoning death are credited towards me. I would say that my experience has turned me towards Scripture more so that I can receive God's Word and "hear" Him speak to me.

word verification: depres...wow lol

Tom said...

Dan, your militancy on this issue in commendable, but overreaching.

Chris H, I agree but would add that Scripture itself tells us that that God uses creation and providence to teach us about Him. (e.g. Ps 19, Rom 1)

I was recently reading in the Spurgeon archive (thanks, Phil) and came across his exposition of Romans 1:19,20...

"Men who never heard the gospel can see God in his works if they open their eyes. There is written upon the face of nature enough to condemn men if they do not turn to God. There is a gospel of the sea, and of the heavens, of the stars, and of the sun; and if men will not read it, they are guilty, for they are wilfully ignorant of what they might know, and ought to know."

So I, like Spurgeon, believe the Bible when it says that God communicates to believers and unbelievers alike via his creation and his providence. Whether we class these as "object lessons" is a matter of semantics.


DJP said...

Then your problem is that you did not read the post. Nothing you quoted from Scripture or Spurgeon has the least relation to the post. Please read it.

If, as is the usual case, your fingers are already moving to type "I already did," then don't bother. As long as you think that what you've written is the least bit responsive to the post, you don't get the post.

Tom said...


Thank you for your opinions about God's providence.


DJP said...

Future post-title:

Job's comforters — they're still with us, and they comment on blogs!

Canyon Shearer, DMin said...

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! - Psalm 139:8

Anonymous said...

If I have a bad day, even if I haven't prayed in a week, you are there.
If I pray all day and witness to eleven thousand people, you are there.

greglong said...

Thank you, Dan, for this post. I needed it today. It was encouraging and challenging. My spirit was lifted.

And then Tom commented...

DJP said...

Daryl, even more:

Either way, my basis of acceptance before God remains the same; and...

Either way, my way of knowing of my acceptance before God remains the same.

DJP said...

Greg, a thing this blog has taught me is that if it is possible to write a post that is so plain and so clear and so unambiguous that nobody can misunderstand, if (s)he tries hard enough — then that ability is beyond my grasp.

Anonymous said...



Finally getting that through my thick skull totally changed my thinking and life 5 or 10 years ago.

It also paved the way for my being able to get out of the charismatic way of thinking.

I am so thankful.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Yep - that's what it comes down to - following what we believe no matter how we feel at the moment. thanks for the reminder.

DJP said...

Stratagem: 1 Peter 1:6 and 2:20 alone are sufficient to drive a final stake into the heart of thinking any other way.

Or would be, in a sane world.

Anonymous said...

Seems simple, but peeling this barnacle of experience off me is painful. It's like I want to hold onto it, roots are deep. Came from a childhood with no real teachers, I read my bible and often went to the nearest protestant church. In college, sought out Navigators. I did go to Bible studies and read my Bible. But everything was always about "knowing your testimony" and sharing it. Experience was important, made almost as important as the Bible itself. Now, a few years after leaving a purpose driven church heading right for spiritual formation (the fluff and then bait and switch church), I feel a bit like I have to start at the foundation again. What of the relationship? Was it all a lie? Why did I see the error in my former church? Somehow I did see it...and now I am treading.


Rob said...

You know though, Dan, if your down on Friday and up on Monday, Prozac might be an option as well - especially in terms of being a little bit nicer in your replies to those misguided "Job's comforters" that visit...

Stuart Brogden said...

As a long-time motorcycle rider, I've owned lots of inexpensive Japanese brand bikes, while wanting to own a BMW from the late '70s through late '80s.

Almost 2 years ago, I scored a great deal on a 1987 BMW R80RT - one of the smoothest, best handling bikes on the twisty roads.

And I've wondered if it had become an idol on occasion.

Last week, while on a riding/camping trip to east Texas, I ran off the road and busted the bike up pretty good. As well as myself (nothing broken on my frail body).

Since the accident (bad choice of word - call it "the wreck"), I've been thankful to God for saving my life - again - and looking at the bike in a new way.

The Lord does indeed cause His children to face sin - and return to His marvelous and all sufficient grace.

Thanks for reminding us - some of whom have similar moods toward work.

Solameanie said...

Dan, aside from this very moving post -- to which I heartily say "amen," I find myself doe-eyed at your use of "sepulchrally." Now THAT one I am going to have to remember, given my generally cadaverous views of society in general.

Praise God that He gives eternal life through His Son to those of us who were once spiritual cadavers.

Anonymous said...

Job's comforters — they're still with us, and they comment on blogs!

AND their Profile (is) Not Available.

David Regier said...

One of the greatest lessons I find in Proverbs (and the Psalms) (and much of the rest of Scripture for that matter) is that my feelings must be trained under the authority of God's word. That is how I am then able to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

How much of Proverbs is dedicated to the fact that the fool obeys his feelings, while the wise man obeys revealed Wisdom!

How I wish I didn't have so much fool stored up in me!

Rachael Starke said...

"... if you've fled to the one refuge which is the Lord Jesus, then that good news from the Far Country is your good news. Regardless of your mood, regardless of your experience."

If I succeed in teaching my three young (but all-to-soon-teenaged) daughters only one principle, I pray that it's this one. I can trace almost every mistake of my years as a young Christian back to not understanding that.

Tom said...

Dan & Stan,

I rejoice with Dan that my acceptance with God is in Jesus Christ regardless of what I feel like or experience on any given day.

I also rejoice that in his providence God provides opportunities for me to learn and experience this awesome Gospel truth through both pain and joy.

God communicates his goodness (grace) to me daily, primarily through his Word, but also through his providence and his creation.



Mike Westfall said...

"Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we feel?' or 'How shall we get filled up with Holy Ghost awesomeness?' But seek ye first the subjective experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit,and these things will come to you" -- 1 Fleshalonians 6:33

"For we walk by feelings, and not by faith, for unless we subjectively and emotionally feel His presence, the Holy Spirit hath departed from us." -- 2 Fleshalonians 5:7

Gabby said...

I look at creation and I see God. I read His Word and I hear God.

This is (another) keeper, Dan. Yes and amen!

Rachael Starke said...


Were you being sarcastic or sincere with the Prozac suggestion?

And by asking that, please note that I'm trying to exercise a 1 Corinthians 13 attitude of genuinely believing the best - that you weren't being snippy in response to your reading of Dan's comments as snippy.

It's understandable for Dan (et al, including me) to be frustrated by a post meant to make a specific, encouraging point being immediately derailed by the same misguided argument and misunderstanding that has been answered again and again and again. (I'd do the links but I'm not good at doing it very speedily - just pretty much read anything he's written here these last few weeks.)

I sometimes tell my children that my very facial muscles get tired from uttering the same syllables to them over and over without any seeming effect; I'm imagining Dan's fingertips feeling the same. :)

And, for the record, if you were being sincere about the drug recommendation, that has the potential to send this thread into another discouraging derailment!

But, again, I'll believe the best and assume you meant what you said in jest.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Yes and yes, to those two scriptures. Is our experience totally unimportant in every respect? No, just as it implies in those scriptures you cited, the experiences can be used of God to send us fleeing to his Word. Is our experience useful for discerning doctrine and spiritual truth? Not at all. We only get that from the Word.

I think we all struggle with the whole thing about whether we "feel" saved or not, but that's just one more reason that the mind (where scriptures can be hidden) needs to rule over the emotions. I have to remind myself of that all the time: the Word over feelings and mood. Charimaticism generally gets it the other way around, emotions often trumping the Word, which leads to lots of nutty activity. Right on.

Halcyon said...


I agree with you.

Tom (and whoever else agrees with Tom):

I agree with you, too.

And that's all I'll say.

Derailments are like car wrecks: you can't stop watching, but they still make a mess.

mikeb said...

Tom, Dan is talking about charismatic "experience", not natural revelation. Although the latter is no more biblically justifiable than the former.

Alas how easily it is to forget about the noetic effects of sin!

Rob said...

Rachael -

Reading some of the comment threads for Dan's posts here it appears that the unspoken blog rule is that if there are ever any comments posted that veer even slightly from every word of the fixed theme of the post, the commenter becomes the target of condescending remarks or ridicule. I think that Dan could benefit with a little more Prov. 51:1 "gentle answers" in his replies instead of pounding down anyone who posts anything other than "I agree with you completely!"

If a comment posted is in need of correction, fine, but I think a loving rebuke could serve a lot better than condescension.

NoLongerBlind said...

@ Tom

I think the problem in your comments is that you're referring to the circumstances of Dan's days (e.g., God's Providence) while Dan's post was about his drastically different moods, and whether or not he should pay any heed to them.

Just sayin'......

(from another Tom)

Aaron Snell said...


You mentioned you have reservations about the hymn "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place" (excluding the line you quoted). I've had some too, and I was wondering if it wouldn't be too tangential to ask if you could briefly explain what you mean. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If anyone asked me that question, Aaron, (which they didn't, but hey, humour me), I'd say that the problem there is that faith is a gift from God through which I believe.
It is not a capacity that all people have and God is just waiting for us to put it in him.

But, no one asked me...

DJP said...

No, my reservations about the hymn is that it could be cast as anti-doctrinal, anti-theological; the sort of snotty, sneery, pseudo-sophisticated snort of someone who imagines himself/herself above all theological controversy.

To say nothing of anti-denominational and anti-credal.

David Regier said...

Aaaaaand He walks with me and he talks with me. . .

Oops. Probably a poor choice.

DJP said...

< facepalm >

donsands said...

"..and over it all a simply sepulchrally hideous mood"

That was a peculiar phrase.

made me think of Marshall Tucker's Can't You See.

"I'm gonna find me a hole in the wall,
I'm gonna crawl inside and die"

Not sure if that coincides, but I've been there and done that.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, and the truth of God.

"The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness." -Psalm 111 7-8

Steve Drake said...

Mikeb said:
"Tom, Dan is talking about charismatic "experience", not natural revelation. Although the latter is no more biblically justifiable than the former."

Just reading through all the posts today, and came across this one from you Mike. I guess I don't understand what you mean by saying that natural revelation is not justified biblically, or am I reading you wrong?

DJP said...

This is not the ____est meta ever, yet; but it's trying to be.

Rebekah said...

"God loved me for Christ's sake. He looked on Christ, and pardoned me."

Amen and amen. The very best news, the hope that anchors my soul, and it is like cold water to a thirsty soul. Thank you for this post.

lawrence said...

Group all charismatics together, build no bridges, take unnecessary potshot: check

Make an excellent, needed, and well-written point nonetheless: check.

Love it :).

DJP said...

Thanks, Lawrence.

But God built the bridge already, for all his children. We're standing on it, beckoning to charismatics, saying "Join us."

Maybe you haven't been following the conversation here. Invariably when I post on the excellence and sufficiency of Scripture, some Charismatic or some wannabe says "But what about my/X's expeeeeeeerience?"

I just got an email last week from a good brother, asking that very question.

Wellsir, here's part of the answer.

John said...

Mikeb - that is an interesting thought that I have been punting around lately. Don't want to derail this (fine) meta, but if you drop me a line at my blog I would love to discuss this more.

IB Dubbya said...

@Mesa Mike: Quotin' from that ol' TBN Bible, are yeh?

'Holy Ghost awesomeness'...heheh tooo funny, man! (c:

bp said...

David Regier: Aaaaaand He walks with me and he talks with me. . .

Oops. Probably a poor choice.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Ps 23:4

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27

If ya wanna get technical.

lawrence said...

Quite the contrary. I read every post and (against my better judgment) meta. And you were very helpful one time defining the finer points of a Greek word.

My only point (jokingly made, granted) is that you're also talking about experiance (in this case, the negative and unbiblical responses you've gotten from Charismatics.) Charismatics that use experiance as a trump to your, or anybody else's, Biblical points aren't the issue, and never will be the issue, and don't prove anything anyways. Dr. King was treated horribly by most white southern conservatives. That says nothing about the idealogy of conservatism.

Arguments against the legitmacy of the theological arguments for charismaticism should be about the issue, not those who adhere to it. If it does, then experiances on both sides becomes the issue.

lawrence said...

I should have side you were very helpful to me personally in an email (as opposed to just through your blog.) I didn't mean to indicate that you've only been helpful one time. Ever. In all your writings :).

lawrence said...

*should have said.

Apparently I'm just another uneducated, unread, grammatically ridiculous Holy Roller.

Unknown said...

Rob said:
it appears that the unspoken blog rule is that if there are ever any comments posted that veer even slightly from every word of the fixed theme of the post, the commenter becomes the target of condescending remarks or ridicule.

Now I would be one to normally ride the DJP train all the way, but I wholly agree with Rob here. Any chance for kinder words DJP?

lee n. field said...

On seeing the title, "Good news from a far country" the first thing I thought was "gospel".

Less Psalm 5 and more Psalm 44, if you catch my drift.

My foul moods are usually in the first half of Psalm 73.

Wamalo said...

Rob, Trevor, I guess requesting kinder words by using mischaracterizations must be all fine and dandy then.

Jeri Tanner said...

Very nice!

Rachael Starke said...


I was trying to make two points: (in a hurry - note to self - never a good thing with these types of comments! :( )

1. "Believing the best" means, when there's even a possibility that something said could be read either kindly or unkindly, we choose to believe it was kind, until we know for certain otherwise. I was choosing to believe that Dan's words were written with good intent, even though, to be honest, on first reading, I can see how it could be read and received as unkind. Did he intend to be unkind? Don't know. Haven't specifically asked. Yet. :)

2. Assuming your assessment was correct, firing off a retort along the lines of "Dude, you need medication" seems very much like Proverbs 26:4, rather than Proverbs 15:1a.

Barbara said...

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He'll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The written Word of God.
Salvation by my Savior's name,
Salvation through His blood.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died
And that He died for me.

Faith resting in the word of God and the work of Christ. (maybe creeds are helpful, but they are not resting places for one's true faith). Problems?

Mike Riccardi said...

Barbara: Problems?

DJP: ...my reservations about the hymn is that it could be cast as anti-doctrinal, anti-theological; the sort of snotty, sneery, pseudo-sophisticated snort of someone who imagines himself/herself above all theological controversy.

So, what I'm gathering, Barbara, is that while I don't suspect that the author of the hymn meant it this way, someone could hear, "I need no other argument or plea," and think, "Amen! Jesus died and that's all that matters! Later for this theology stuff!"

I had that same eyebrow-raising moment the first time I sang the song. Then I realized the writer didn't mean it the way most evanjellyfish would mean it.

Barbara said...


I saw Dan's comment about it, and that was my response.

I had the same reaction as you the first time I heard it, but quite frankly if the Serpent likes to twist the words of God to wrangle something other than what was intended out of them, then how is it that we have room to think that we can ever word something in a way that can't be twisted to mean something that we don't mean?

DJP said...

Yep, Barbara, anything can be twisted. Best not to make it easy for the twisters. Hence my reservations, yet I'll excerpt from it.

DJP said...

Further moderation is going to be challenging (at best) for me today, so I leave a coda.

Greg summed up the intent of the post and the aftermath pretty well for me:

Thank you, Dan, for this post. I needed it today. It was encouraging and challenging. My spirit was lifted.

And then...

So, in concern for those to whom the post was directed:

Everyone has good days, bad days. Sometimes you feel close to God, sometimes you don't. The feelings are not God talking to you. There is no Scriptural warrant to turn your eyes away from the (hel-lo?) Word of God to reading tea-leaves, feelings, chicken-livers, or events. That message was so clear that an admitted non-Christian emailed me that he got it.

So, suffering Christian who is walking with the Lord to the best of your knowledge of Scripture, your experiences of trials and treachery and pain are not God telling you that He has rejected you. Look to Jesus, look to God's word. Jesus saves, signs and portents don't. Stand on Him and His Word.

And, despairing Christian who knows the same gloom and darkness of Spirit — in spite of walking in faith and obedience — which David, Luther, Spurgeon and countless others knew, those feelings are not God telling you He has rejected you. Look to Christ, look to God's word. Jesus saves, He is what matters — not how saved or loved you feel.

God rejected Job's comforters then, and He rejects them now. Supposed Christians will tell you (as you see here) that your tragedies are some sort of extra-biblical revelation, or that (as here) if you admit your suffering aloud there's something wrong with you, and maybe you need drugs.

The truth: you can suffer while loved by God, and while in the will of God (1 Peter 1:6; 2:20-25; 4:16-19). Fix your hope completely on God's mercy at Christ's return (1 Peter 1:13). Your trials will turn to joy and glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Never lose sight of Him.