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  • Abraham Lincoln on Criticism

    "If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."
  • Consider the Cost

    "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events." ~Winston Churchill
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  • Charles Spurgeon

    "Our blessed Lord reveals himself to his people more in the valleys, in the shades, in the deeps, than he does anywhere else. He has a way and an art of showing himself to his children at midnight, making the darkness light by his presence."
  • Progress through Perseverance

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or whether the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; And who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. It is far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight of life, knowing neither victory nor defeat. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
  • Psalm 7:10-17

    God will uncase the hypocrites ere long, and make them know, to their sorrow, what is was to trifle with Him." - Richard Baxter
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  • The Reformed Pastor – Richard Baxter

    “We must carry on our work with patience. We must bear with many abuses and injuries from those to whom we seek to do good. When we have studied for them, and prayed for them, and exhorted them, and beseeched them with all earnestness and condescension, and given them what we are able, and tended them as if they had been our children, we must look that many of them will requite us with scorn and hatred and contempt, and account us their enemies, because we ‘tell them the truth.’ Now, we must endure all this patiently, and we must unweariedly hold on in doing good, ‘in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.’ We have to deal with distracted men who will fly in the face of their physician, but we must not, therefore, neglect their cure. He is unworthy to be a physician, who will be driven away from a frenetic patient by foul words. Yet, alas, when sinners reproach and slander us for our love, and are more ready to spit in our faces, than to thank us for our advice, what heart-risings will there be, and how will the remnants of old Adam (pride and passion) struggle against the meekness and patience of the new man! And how sadly do many ministers come off under such trials!”
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Ladies, YOU need to hear this… Listen up!

Hey ladies, my valuable, worthy ladies who love God and put yourself out there every day for others. Yes, I mean you.

Melody2 by Jesse Therrien from freeimages freesxc

I have something to tell you, something you NEED to hear. I’ve gotten so many letters, texts, Facebook messages, phone calls, and frustrated, “I need to talk to you,” face to face encounters that I have to address this. Urgh.

There is something you may not know and I’m going to tell you right now.

So listen up.

You are valuable.

You are loved.

You are who you are because God made you that way. That makes you special… special to God… special to me.

Yes, I mean you.

I see you day to day putting yourself aside and working for others, dropping by a vase of flowers for a sick older lady, changing diapers in the church nursery, going out to work to help support the family, caring your grandchildren, sacrificing for your children, washing dishes after a fellowship in your church, raising an adopted child by yourself, taking your kids to sports practice, blogging tutorials for strangers on how to save a dime, tutoring the student who just doesn’t get it, caring for a sick husband, encouraging others to keep going…

You do so much for others that I couldn’t possibly list it all. And yet, you are discouraged, feeling unloved and disrespected.

To quote a phrase in the Bible, because it is so simple yet profound, “These things ought not so to be.”

It makes me angry (yes, I can be angry and sin not) to see the women around me live discouraged, defeated lives because of how they are regarded by those around them.

It ends now.

Every woman who belongs to Christ (if you’re not sure, go here) must claim their position in Him, realize their value, and act like it!

No more questioning. No more letting people walk all over you. No more wondering if you can be used.

NO MORE!

You are not alone.

When you met Christ, you not only were forgiven, but you became brand new. You became His child, valuable and complete.

Did you hear that? You are complete in Him. He VALUED you enough to hang on that cross – FOR YOU.

So how is it that we wonder if we are enough? How is it that we question our value?

Um, no.

Right now you are going to realize you are valuable, complete in Him and to be regarded as such. No more are you going to accept the notion that you are not as good or capable or usable as that woman you think is better than you (or that woman that thinks she is better than you and lets you know it).

If someone tries to make you feel small, you just stand tall and tell yourself, “I am a daughter of the Most High God, I am valued, I am complete in Him.” Notice I said, “tries.” No one can put you in your place but God, and if you belong to Him, you are already placed in His hand and He is in your heart.

Repeat after me, “I got this.”

Photo by Stephen Davies freeimages

I don’t mean, “I got this,” as in “I’m perfect,” I mean, “I got this, I’m complete, I’m valued by God, I don’t need your approval, I don’t need you to put me in my place. I’m good where I’m at, in my God’s hand, loved and valued.”

Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop trying to compete. Just be whom God made you. Accept who you are. Realize your value. Stand up and say, “I got this.”

Being submissive doesn’t mean we are a little mouse that walks around afraid to speak. If you’re not sure this is true, go read in the Scriptures about how all the women that served God were strong, confident women with purpose.

Being a good woman doesn’t mean you stand by while others smack you around with their words or actions. Others will not respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Stand up and say, “I got this.”

One friend recently said, “I’ve decided I will just stay in my room when they are home.”

Um. No.

You are not going to hide. You are not going to step aside and let them devalue you, take advantage of your insecurities or let them make you feel unloved. You are the daughter of a king. You step up and say,

“I got this.”

You are going to claim your position in Christ, say to yourself, “I belong to the King,” and take your place as a valued child. You are going to set your boundaries and claim your spot. It is your home. They are visitors. They will respect and cherish you or they will go.

I have a family of 5 living in our home and my 87 year old mother. None of them treat me like I am worthless. None of them push me around. None of them disrespect me. In fact, it is just the opposite. I have loved every moment my daughter’s family has been in our home for the past 5 months. I have gained much by having my mother in our home. We help each other, we laugh, we enjoy, we respect each other. When they move out in the next few days I will feel a loss. When my mother goes home to glory, I will feel a void.

If this is not the case with those around you, then you need to reevaluate your relationships, disconnect from those who do not value you and find some who do. Pray for a girlfriend who will uplift you and support you. Find someone who can encourage you and walk with you. Set your boundaries with everyone in your life and make it clear you know whom you, to whom you belong are and who you are not. And then tell yourself, “I got this.”

You are a daughter of the King.

You are valuable.

You are loved.

You are who you are because God made you that way.

That makes you special… special to God… special to me.

And yes, I mean you.

Blessings to you,

VAL signature

Ring in the New Year

Today I am considering my New Years resolutions. They aren’t going to be the typical ones like exercising more, giving up chocolate, etc. I’m leaning more toward being more efficient and productive. My resolutions are more like goals this year. I would be interested in hearing from you all to see what you have determined to do (or not do) in 2013 to make your life happier, healthier and more productive.

I’ve not completed my list yet, partly because I need to pin down my husband. I want to do them together and separately this year. But to get started, I’m going to list a few here and now to get me started.

1. Spend one hour a day working on church stuff – I want to set aside a time to work on my church publications at a set time so it doesn’t take up my entire day. I tend to sit down with my laptop and lose 3-5 hours in a blink! I am trying to do this first thing in the morning.

2. Spend one hour a day writing my book. I’ve put this off too long! I started it a year ago, but stalled because I wasn’t sure which way to take it. Should I do one book combining my ministry experience and parenting of special needs children or should I split it into two? I took some time this year to ask others and the general consensus is to split it into two books because one would get muddled and contain too much for my reader to process. So that’s the deal. I’m now working on two books.

3. HOSPITALITY…my new house has been given to me because God wants Mark and I to focus on the service of hospitality. Too often we forget to let people know how valuable they are to us. So, here we go. We started with a New Years party to ring in the new year and plan to ask people over to our home in order to get to know them and let them know we love them. This is going to be fun!  It is also my goal to be ready to take visitors at any time of the day – kind of an open house type existence. This one is going to be hard, but I am going to make myself change my way of thinking.

4. Mission work for small churches…I’ve already begun this one, but need to plan and execute this ministry in a more organized way. My desire to to provide quality publications for small churches that can’t afford to hire a graphic designer. I’ve already worked with a few churches and have found it to be a much needed ministry. It is also my goal to be enough financially solvent that I can afford to travel to these churches to work with them face to face. This make it easier to get a real feel of the ministry in order to suit the publications to them personally.

5. Set up a photo studio in my home and work on getting some pay jobs. I’ve done photography over the years for church and family, but haven’t worked much on making it a business. I need to supplement our income and see this as a good way to bring in a bit of cash here and there. Our new house has a space I can use for an indoor photo studio, so I won’t be limited to just outdoor photography, though it is my preferred method. We’ve been working on the room for a couple of months now, but still have to get lighting, backgrounds, and props.

6. Work on my blog for a half an hour a day – this is going to be a hard one since I tend to put it off because it takes me over sometimes. That’s partly why I’ve not kept up on it because it takes a lot of time out of my day. Time management is a priority for me this year and I am determined to master it.

7. Learn my Adobe products – Jillian brought me some of her college books when she was home for Christmas. I intend to go through them a page at a time and learn my craft.

8. Write more letters to my kids – I have kids spread all over the country; my goal is to write a letter a month to try to re-connect my kids to one another. It’s not  enough that I desire a close family. Everyone needs to make an effort. Perhaps if I share tidbits of family news it will cause some to think inward. Family is where it’s at!

Let me know what goals you have for the new year. We need to inspire one another!

The Obscurest Believer

Matthew 18:10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

John Wesley Commentary comments on this verse:  See that ye despise not one of these little ones – As if they were beneath your notice.  Be careful to receive and not to offend, the very weakest believer in Christ: for as inconsiderable as some of these may appear to thee, the very angels of God have a peculiar charge over them: even those of the highest order, who continually appear at the throne of the Most High.”

Barnes NT Commentary says:  “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,” etc. That is, one who has become like little children – or, a Christian. Jesus then proceeds to state the reason why we should not despise his feeblest and obscurest follower. That reason is drawn from the care which God exercises over them. The first instance of that care is, that in heaven their angels do always behold his face. He does not mean, I suppose, to state that every good man has his guardian angel, as many of the Jews believed; but that the angels were, in general, the guards of his followers, and aided them, and watched over them (Heb 1:14). 
 
“Do always behold the face of my Father,” etc. This is taken from the practice of earthly courts. To be admitted to the presence of a king; to be permitted to see his face continually; to have free access at all times, was deemed a mark of peculiar favour, (1Kings 10:8; Es 1:14) and was esteemed a security for his protection. So, says our Saviour, we should not despise the obscurest Christians, for they are ministered to by the highest and noblest of beings; beings who are always enjoying the favour and friendship of God.

C.H. Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew says:  Those who are servants to poor saints and little children are allowed free entrance to the King: what must he think of his little ones themselves? Nay, this is not all. Jesus himself cares for the poorest and neediest. Yes, he came to save that which was lost. How dare we then be proud, and despise a child because of its youth, or a man because of his poverty, or his want of intelligence? The angels and the angels’ Lord care for the most despised of our race; shall not we?

Can You Be Counted On?

In June, Pastor Ron used Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples of servants who could be counted on. (Philippians 2:19 – 3o)  Use this list to evaluate yourself in the area of Christian service.

The signs of a faithful servant:

1) Have a natural care for other believers.

2) Have a genuine selfless care for the cause of Christ (2:4 & 5).

3) Develop/have a tested proven track record of faithful service.

4) Have a willingness to partner with others in ministry.

5) Have a willingness to stand in the gap.

If you have all the attributes of a faithful servant, what type of a worker are you?

Four Types of Workers

1) A worker that someone has to go find to work

2) A worker that someone has to tell what to do

3) A worker that comes and asks what needs to be done

4) A worker that sees something that needs to be done and goes and does it

Which type are YOU?

Brow Beating Believers

The path I have chosen with God’s direction has been enlightening. I have learned many things, especially the past few years. After 20+ years of dealing with “interesting children,” I’ve seen my share and then some of children tied up in a world of sinfulness. Not only have they sinned in record measures, but they have been sinned against in ways that would cause even the most experienced sinner to blush. I’m talking about the kids who were adopted out of families that did not regard them as precious jewels the way Christ does. They were broken as small children and grew up with that reflected in their behavior and thought processes. Nearly all of my children who were violated as small children by their birth families have fallen into great vast pits upon leaving our home and striking out on their own. Yes, you can sit back and judge them – or you can have great compassion for a fellow human being who experienced the worst the world has to offer and is trying to make sense of it. Sure, they could have leaned on the One who created them and could have trusted and obeyed Him, but for some reason their view was so darkened they were not able to look up at the light at that point in their lives. It is not for me to judge, though I have tried to reason the “why” of it all.

We tried to make up for all the “bad stuff” that they had experienced prior to coming into our home. It was certainly our intention to do so, but for some reason we were not enough. We gave them a safe home that had proper education, both spiritually and mentally, love and concern along with the discipline to train them in the right way to live. Did it “take?” No, not for the ones who were resistant to such things. But it was planted in their heads. That’s the key.  We’re beginning to see that for some of them, when the time is right and they’ve discovered that the world has nothing for them, they know where to look when they decide to seek God and all He has for them.

It’s obvious to everyone what a parent’s stand ought to be in the midst of their children’s life’s journey. They support the good decisions and don’t support the bad ones. They seek the best for the child. When sinned against, they are to be willing to forgive if the child is genuinely repentant. That doesn’t mean the parents have to support them when they aren’t living right, but they pray for them and give godly advice when asked. They don’t brow beat them or slander their name. They sit quietly by and wait for the child to see the light and welcome them back when they do. They do their best to advise them and try to teach them to keep their paths straight. If the child gets off the right path, the parent does not go off with them. They continue on, waiting for their child to return. If the child is living at home, the parent is to grab them and put them back on the right path in any way God directs them to do so. I’ve told my adult children that they have the right to choose whatever path they want to walk down, but to not expect me to go down with them, for I too have a responsibility to walk with God in the way He directs me.

But what is the responsibility of those who are not family, those who the child has sinned against? If they are believers, then their responsibility is the same. The only exception is deferring to the parent for discipline. Compassion ought to rule. We are in God’s family. Too often I have seen my children offend or sin against another believer and receive the same amount of offence right back. If we consider ourselves mature believers, then we ought to return love and compassion, not seek to “make them pay.”  We ought to consider what is the best for that child, not recompense for our offended pride. Brow beating someone into submission out of our so called spiritual standing as authority is not love. The desire to capitalize on their sin is as bad as the original sin we were considering. It is prideful arrogance – showing we care more for our hurt feelings than the offender’s welfare and spiritual needs. To not offer forgiveness and reconcilliation when there has been repentance is to curse the love of God. If the love of God dwells in us, we will love others. If it does not, we will allow our selfish desires to walk all over those we consider less than us. It is then at that point that we become the offender and turn God’s attention off the sinner and on to ourselves. That is not a place I would ever want to be.

John 8:7  “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” 

Galatians 6:1  “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Are You in Bootcamp?

I’ve been receiving edevotions from Christian Womanhood and ran across one that made me think. You can sign up here if you’re interested in receiving them. Today’s devotion compared the Christian life with bootcamp. Here’s an excerpt:

“He loves us enough to stretch us farther than we think we can grow in wisdom and knowledge, grace and truth. He tests us each and every day, revealing our weaknesses, challenging our decision to live for Christ, testing our sincerity.

 He does all of this out of love, knowing that “…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17).  He wants us to graduate from boot camp as mature, confident soldiers, able to stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:23b).
 
My neighbor knew for a long time that he wanted to be in the Army. He knew when he signed up that boot camp was not going to be fun. He anticipated the fact that the officers were going to be very tough and that life was going to be difficult for a while. He knew all of this, yet he looked forward to joining the Army. He wanted to be a soldier.  If you are serious about serving God, you will pay a price to serve Him. Just like boot camp separates the men from the boys, Jesus Christ will bring trials into your life to make sure you really, really, want to be used by Him.”
 
She went on to say that by choice we are in God’s army and that our trials here on Earth are a sort of bootcamp that prepare us for our service to our Lord in Heaven. Not many make the choice, but the ones that do, stand out as true servants of God. As I look back on the past 20+ years, I see many hard times that some have said we “brought on ourselves.” I guess I have to agree with them. We did bring it on ourselves – by enlisting in God’s army and following our High Commander’s orders. If my son, who’s going to Afghanistan, experiences battle and is injured, would you say to him, “He brought it on himself?” Of course not! You will honor him as someone who put himself in harm’s way for the good of his country. He will have counted the cost. Our personal cost was great in our service for our King, but they were worth it – He was worth it. We didn’t know how much pain and heartache we’d encounter in His service when we signed up, but that doesn’t negate our offering to the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. What are you doing that shows you enlisted in His army?  James 2:18 “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

Should Christians Help the Poor?

Should Christians help the poor? Throughout Proverbs we find that God tells us to be merciful and kind to the poor, yet I’ve also been told that if we do not couple that with the Gospel our efforts are in vain. I like to take the Word literally and say that we as Christians have an obligation to help the poor – especially in our communitites and churches because we love God and want to show His compassion. If we are walking in the Spirit, we will be a living example of what God can do for a person and our lives will point them to Christ. Of course we need to open our mouth and testify of Him, and that will happen if we make it our practice to testify of Him whenever we are given the opportunity. Our responsibilty is to “show” and “tell” by our actions and words. God will take care of the rest.

Below is part of an article that I found on a church website about how their church helps the poor.

It does not make sense to do mercy work overseas and not at home.    This point was profoundly made over 100 years ago by a man named William Booth.    In 1890 the Christian explorer Henry Stanley published a book called In Darkest Africa. It told of the massive Africa civilizations untouched by the Christian West. The church was brimming with excitement over the foreign work, and many brave souls were leaving the comforts of their homeland to go and reach these forgotten people for Christ.     The same year, another man few people had heard of, William Booth, wrote a book called In Darkest . In it he painted a picture of the wretched conditions of the slums, the poor and working class in London, and the relative apathy of the English churches for the forgotten right outside her doors. ‘It doesn’t make sense to care for one and not the other,’ he said. In the introduction to the book he said,  This summer the attention of the civilised world has been arrested by the story which Mr. Stanley has told of Darkest Africa and his journeyings across the heart of the Lost Continent… But while brooding over the awful presentation of life as it exists in the vast African forest, it seemed to me only too vivid a picture of many parts of our own land.

As there is a darkest Africa is there not also a darkest England?… think for a moment …strange it is that so much interest should be excited by a narrative of human squalor and human heroism in a distant continent, while greater squalor and heroism not less magnificent may be observed at our very doors.   If this were the first time that this wail of hopeless misery had sounded on our ears the matter would have been less serious. It is because we have heard it so often that the case is so desperate… It rises unceasing, year in and year out, and we are too busy or too idle, too indifferent or too selfish, to spare it a thought. … it is time, and high time, that the question were faced… with a resolute determination to make an end of the crying scandal of our age.   What a satire it is upon our Christianity and our civilisation that the existence of these colonies of (lost men and women) in the heart of our capital should attract so little attention! …  Why all (these ornate churches) to save men from a (hell) in a world which is to come, while never a helping hand is stretched out to save them from the inferno of their present life? Is it not time that… to rescue some at least of those for whom they profess to believe their Founder came to die?’    

Booth became the founder of the Salvation Army.    What then, do we then cease doing international missions? Not at all! It means we develop a missional mindset at home. Following the pattern of Acts 1:8, every church should have a strategy for church planting and mercy ministry that starts in her local area and extends around the world.  Our church recently took its first ‘mission trip’ to Durham. We modeled it like almost every international trip we’ve taken. We asked people to get off work. We formed teams. We raised money. We built houses. We partnered with other Christians. We’re a long way from causing ‘much joy’ in our city, but that is where we are headed.  Members of our church have begun to look at themselves as ‘chaplains’ assigned to their schools, neighborhoods and places of work. They are there when someone dies. They are there when someone has a need. Each is trying to discover how they can give signs of the Kingdom to their local communities.  Some of our members are ‘relocating’ to mission-fields right in Durham. A few members have sold their houses and moved into lower-income districts to have a ministry there. One member recently turned down a substantial promotion because he didn’t feel that God called him to move away from those to whom he was currently ministering at work. Retirees are asking how they can use their golden years not for golf but for ministry. One retiree recently said to me, ‘People keep telling me to move to the beach because I’ve earned it. At no point in my Christian life have I earned the right to live for myself.’”

Go to the Summit Church web page to read the rest of this article.

I challenge all Christians to show the love of God in whatever way the Holy Spirit directs. This may be lending a helping hand to an older saint, the neighbor who lost his job, or a small child who has no family. We must be atune to the Holy Spirit’s leading every moment of the day so we do not miss opportunities to serve God by meeting the needs of the poor. 

Prov. 14:21  “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”
Prov. 14:31  “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”

Prov. 19:17  “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”  
Prov. 21:13 “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

Prov. 28:27  “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.”
Prov. 29:7  “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”

Prov. 31:9 “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

The last one I dedicate to all those who are a friend to the poor and needy child (Though it is generally considered by most commentaries to be directed to Jesus’ disciples):

Matthew 10:42 “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

Spurgeon commented on this passage, “He looked away from the apostles to some of the least and youngest of those who followed him, end he declared that the very least kindness shown to them should have its recompense. There may be a sea of warm love in ‘a cup of cold water.’  Much loyalty to the King may be expressed by little kindnesses to his servants, and perhaps more by kindness to the little ones among them than by friendship with the greater sort.

To love a poor and despised child of God for Christ’s sake shows greater love to Christ than if we love the honorable, and amiable, and rich members of his church. Acts of love are divinely estimated rather by motive than by measure. ‘A cup,’ and that ‘of cold water’, may mean as much from one as banquet from another. Cold water has a special value in a hot climate; but this text makes it precious anywhere. Giving refreshment may be made a choice means of fellowship with holy men, if we give it because they are disciples; and specially so when persecuting governments make it penal to succor the saints in any way.
 
Though every kindly deed is its own reward, yet the Lord promises a further recompense. What we give for Christ’s sake is insured against loss by the promise of the text, by the ‘Verily, I say unto you,’ which confirms
it, and by the use of the negative ‘in no wise,’ which shuts out all possibility of its being otherwise.”