Preface to the 2008 Online Edition
In 1992 I wrote a little book of sayings called Reflections and self-published it, printing and binding it myself. I gave out a few copies to a number of people, probably less than one hundred. I still have a few of these little books. This 2008 web site edition is substantially the same, with just a few minor changes. I offer this little book to my online visitors with the prayer that God will make these convictions of my heart come alive for them and that the things I have written will accomplish some good purpose for God’s kingdom.
This little volume is dedicated to the glory of God, without Whom I never could have or ever would have written any of it. It is also dedicated with love to my wife, Carol Perullo Trefrey, who continues to help me to learn the practical implications of what I have written here.
Sayings and aphorisms have been with us from ancient times. In these modern days brief sayings have fallen into a certain disfavor. We are apt to distrust the condensing of truth into a few words. And maybe with good reason, for we live in an age of easy political slogans, slick and deceptive advertising jingles, and the simple, catchy jargon of religious hucksters. We had best be careful of anything that purports to reduce mighty truths to bite-sized tidbits.
I have tried to avoid this error. Sayings of the sort I have written in this little book have both their limitations and their value. They are limited, indeed, because they attempt the difficult task of condensing much truth into few words, leaving the reader with unanswered questions. To get something from a saying, assuming, of course, there is anything worthwhile to be gotten out of it, one must seek to bring something of one’s own truth and experience to what is said. The saying must have a ring of truth in one’s own heart or it will mean little. These, then, are the some of the limitations of sayings. Sayings cannot take the place of long and careful reflection.
And that brings me to the value of sayings, namely, that they are meant to do that very thing: to stimulate long and careful reflection. They are meant to jar people out of lazy thinking and the propensity we all have of reaching for too-easy, but inadequate solutions to the important problems of life. They may seem to obscure hard truths with easy words, but my intent is the very opposite of this.
The value for you, my reader, will be not so much in what you take from them as in what you bring to them, as they sink down into your mind and bring to memory important truths that God has been trying to bring to the minds of men over the course of ages. May my Reflections be true to its name, reflecting a little of the reality that God has been preparing you to see. The value of a reflection lies not in itself, but in what it reveals of a reality outside of itself.
With the exception of just a few teachings of scripture, it is possible to make too much of Biblical teachings. This is done when one truth is stressed at the expense of others. It is good, and very necessary, to pray, but if one prays so much that there is no time for things such as family duties and personal responsibilities, then one’s life is out of balance. Study of the scripture is good, but, again it can be pushed beyond the bounds of sane and balanced activity.
There is one exception. It is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We will never be able to overdo love, however much we may err in excessive devotion to other Christian duties.
The fear of the Lord is a guard-rail to keep His people from straying beyond the limits set by His love.
The fear of the Lord is a goad to drive lost sheep into His pastures of salvation.
Every error, every heresy, every false spiritual teaching has its opposite error that is usually just as false and just as deadly.
There are two opposite errors into which the Christian may fall. The first is when he attempts to do things in his own strength that he must learn to trust God to do for him. The second is when he expects God to do things for him when God expects him to do them for himself. Every earnest Christian will spend his life learning the important distinction between these two things.
There are those who teach too much law and too little grace, who multiply commandments and make it hard, even impossible, to obey God’s law. And there is the opposite error of those who offer freedom and grace as license, forgetting God has called His people to holiness and righteousness.
There is a kind of misguided thinking that says it is best to ignore everything evil and concentrate only on what is good. That sort of mentality would have us ignore the necessity of dealing with the evil in the world, the evil in our own hearts, and the evil of a very real Devil.
There are those who make far too little of the Devil, thinking he is a myth. There are others who believe in him, but think they may best deal with him by ignoring him. And there are those who fall into the opposite trap of making far too much of him, seeing the devil behind every little difficulty and problem, even to the extreme of seeking to cast demons out of tables and chairs.
The best way of dealing with Satan is to stand strong in the power of the Lord, to oppose his evil with the name of Jesus, the power of the cross and the blood, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the protection of a sanctified and yielded life. The worst way of dealing with Satan is to ignore him.
One of the silliest Christian myths is that the Devil will go away if you ignore him. He is very likely to go away if you get your attention on Jesus and keep it there, but that is not at all the same thing.
It is only when we see God’s light that we begin to comprehend how great is the darkness of this world.
The concept of sin would be meaningless if there were no God. If there is no divine lawgiver, then there can be no transgression.
Christian growth consists more of learning to distinguish between good and evil within one’s own heart than it does in understanding anything else, however deep and spiritual any such knowledge may seem.
Real spiritual knowledge is nothing more than a deeper revelation of the nature of God. We change every time we grasp something more of His essence.
God has the keys to all spiritual knowledge. No one understands anything without His permission.
Scientific truths may be discovered by unbelievers, but the things of God are hidden by Him from all eyes but those He has prepared to see His glory.
Holy things are hidden from the unholy. Just as darkness hides things from view, so does light.
Our knowledge of God is always linked to our obedience to His commands. He reveals Himself in proportion to our readiness to obey Him.
God has so ordered the universe that the eyes of the ungodly cannot see His glory.
The Devil makes slaves; God begets sons. The Devil uses fear to motivate those who serve him; God, in His love, calls forth servants who will serve Him out of their love for Him.
A true Christian is always a Christian by choice. “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
God’s purpose has always been that heaven and earth be filled with those who honor, serve, and worship Him by their deliberate choice.
There is no forced labor in God’s kingdom.
Be wary of complicated teachings that serve to obscure simple vital truths. Be just as wary of simple formulas that are made into easy panaceas for every problem of life.
We are called to overcome evil with good, not to close our eyes to it with ignorance or look the other way in avoidance.
One of the special delights of the Christian Gospel is that it enables believers to serve God for the sheer joy of doing so, not because we need to pay our way into heaven by good character and good deeds.
What I love determines what I am and what I will become. It follows, then, that if I love evil I will become evil, and conversely, if I love good I will become good. But what capacity have I to love good? I have none apart from Christ. Only Christ in me can love what is good, just as only Christ in me can hate evil.
The people who resist God’s rule always instinctively hate those who seek to obey it.
Always seek to love what God loves. It will be protection and security to you.
Here is a definition of love: love is active concern for the welfare of other persons. Love in the truest Biblical sense is always an active thing. It is real only when it is operative. When you take the “active” out of active concern all that is left is pity. Even the Pharisees had pity.
Unselfishness is always a part of Christian love.
Unselfishness means that because I fully trust God for my needs I am therefore secure enough in myself to spend myself without limit for God.
Joy can be planted, but it cannot be buried; it can be shared, but it cannot be hoarded.
The greatest human wisdom is found in a heart filled with God’s love.
Love liberally. Never be stingy with love. Love as if God’s own infinite supply of love were yours, and be assured that, if you are His child, it is.
The Pharisees are still among us. As in ancient days, they still have rules for everything, solutions for every problem, and insights into all mysteries of the Bible. And they are still as blind.
True wisdom consists of knowing and expressing the love of God.
It is dangerous to know what the Bible teaches and be unwilling to live according to that knowledge.
Just as few are wise enough to know how little they know when they know much, so are there few who understand the important distinction between the possession of knowledge and the possession of wisdom.
However clever it may seem, wisdom that leaves out God is folly.
The man who is wise and godly learns from all wisdom that ignores God, but he does so by adding the single vital ingredient it lacks: the fear of God.
Truth is truth, and apart from God’s revelation it is still truth. But it is like a living thing that is severed from both its source and its lifeline.
He who is wise with godly wisdom knows there are things he does not know and takes comfort in the knowledge that his God is the custodian of all knowledge. He who only has human wisdom is left with an ambivalent feeling, for he knows he is wise enough to grasp the limitations of human knowledge, and, so, there is comfort to his pride in knowing he is able to have such depth of understanding, but inwardly he despairs, as one looking into a black and bottomless abyss.
The Via Dolorossa isn’t Easy Street. The way of the cross is always the way of self-denial, and it is always hard, but it is the only route to ultimate joy and freedom.
It costs nothing to become a Christian, but it costs everything to remain one.
Faith must always be growing or it will be dying.
The path of obedience will always lead the Christian to the place of persecution.