Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

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Now and then, when I was a teenager back at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, I was given the honor of turning down the lights in the sanctuary just as the congregation got to the last line of this great hymn. Picture this: The pews are filled at the Sunday night service. It’s dark outside, but bright inside, as the final hymn begins. Then the lights go down just as all in attendance sing, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The backlit cross at the front of the church now stands out in stark focus as a hush falls over the room. A little dramatic? Maybe, except that I still see that cross in my mind’s eye and feel that hush in my heart, often just when I’m about to forget about God’s glory and grace.

We can’t dim the lights on the rest of life as easily as I could turn that rheostat back then. Would that we could! Maybe instead, we need to shine greater light on the glory and grace that surrounds us. He is everything. Our full supply. That’s what Helen Lemmel was trying to convey when she penned these lyrics.

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Are you, like so many of us, troubled by “the things of earth” today? Is your heavenly vision a bit blurred? Take a breath. Take a moment. Remember whose you are and who He is. Enjoy the right you have as a child of God to fellowship with the Creator of the universe. And let those things that trouble you fade in the light of his glory, with the realization that, while you may not be able to see how right now, his grace is and always will be enough.

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The Ring’s the Thing

The RIng ad 2018Okay, true confessions here: I resist change. I prefer to think of myself as someone who is usually content with the present circumstances. That’s a good thing, right? But, yes, “slow to embrace change” certainly describes me as well. I was the last of my family to get a cell phone, the last of just about anyone I know to upgrade to a smart phone, and still don’t really know how to use hashtags…

And for Christmas, our kids gave Steve and me The Ring. Nope, not the kind for your finger, but the kind for your front door, a newfangled doorbell. They were so excited about it. We travel. We hang out in our backyard. This would be the perfect way for us to keep track of all visits to our front porch by friend and stranger alike.

We delayed. The instructions said, “5 minute installation.” Sure, that’s what they all say.

Then came that moment when we realized that pretty soon one of our kids was going to ask, “How’s The Ring working out?” We were going to look, well, resistant to change!

And so, we installed it. Actually, it only took a few minutes over the promised five. But it was a little difficult to figure out how our newly installed gadget actually worked. After all, this was something NEW! So, leaving our frustration behind, we took a walk. On the way back, our phones told us we had missed a visit from Nick. (Video included.) A quick call, and we were off to see our sweet grandson and family.

Ding! Ding! Ding! One could say that as the doorbell rang, the lightbulb went off. That gadget is not about catching the latest Amazon delivery right away (although it has helped us do that too.) It’s about never missing an opportunity to engage with the other people in our lives. And engaging with others is a big part of what life is meant to be.

So here are my challenges to you today:

Are you embracing change as God puts it in your path? Just do it!

And are you looking for ways to engage with the people he has put in your life? They need you, and chances are you need them too!

Curious About George?

George Muller Wikipedia 2018Born in 1805, George Müller started life as a thief. Yep, a thief. Later, though, as a Christian, he established much needed orphanages in England. Here’s how dire the situation was: “When the new Orphan House was being built, nearly six thousand young orphans were living in the prisons of England because there was no other place for them to go.”[1]

George wanted to help those children. He also wanted to convince people that God answers prayer. Thus, as part of his MO, he never asked for funding or publicized his needs. “He knew that God could incline the hearts of men to aid him, and he believed that if the work was of Him, He would meet every need. Thus, in childlike simplicity, he looked to God, and all that he needed was furnished as punctually as if he was a millionaire drawing regularly on his bank account.”[2]

What can we learn from George? His autobiography describes these steps toward a life of faith:[3]

  • Expect to have difficulty in this world, for it is not our home, yet all difficulties may be overcome by acting according to the Word of God.
  • Carefully read the Bible and meditate on it…Become acquainted with the nature and character of God. But be warned—the work of the Lord itself may tempt us away from communion with Him, yet public prayer will never make up for closet communion
  • Maintain an upright heart and a good conscience. Do not knowingly and habitually indulge in things that are contrary to the mind of God.
  • Don’t shrink from opportunities for faith to be tested. These allow us to see God’s help and deliverance, which in turn increase our faith.
  • Let God work. When a trail of faith comes, stand firm in trusting God. He will prove his willingness to help and deliver at the perfect time. The longer the wait, or the greater the need, the greater the enjoyment when at last the answer comes.

Wayland Lincoln, penned the words below as closing remarks for George’s autobiography. They are the perfect way to close today.

“No Christian, however poor and humble, should despair of doing a noble work for God. One never needs to wait until he can obtain the cooperation of the multitude or the wealthy. Let him undertake what he believes to be his duty, on ever so small a scale, and look directly to God for aid and direction. If God has planted the seed, it will take root, grow, and bear fruit.” [4]

(And one more thing, lest any of you think it is too late in life for God to use you. Check out this quote from Wikipedia about George: “On 26 March 1875, at the age of 70 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17-year period of missionary travel.” Wow!)

[1] Müller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 219.

[2] Ibid., p. 8.

[3] Paraphrased.

(4) Muller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 230.

Relinquishment and Surprise

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Catherine Marshall wrote about relinquishing our desires through prayer. You can read more about my experience with that prayer here or order her terrific book on prayer here.

Change invariably demands some degree of relinquishment, and so I find myself in another chapter of that challenge. Am I happy to be living in a new city? You bet. Do I question the rather monumental changes Steve and I have made in the last several months? Not at all. But our enemy always seeks to rob us of our joy and of the best God has for us by convincing us to reject the challenge of change. Perhaps that’s the reason he warned Lot and his family not to look back as they fled to the mountains. (Or, for you Star Wars fans, it’s probably why Shmi instructed Anakin with the simple words, “Don’t look back.”)

  • When we cling desperately to the old, we are not free to embrace the new.
  • When we pray with the attitude of a demanding child, we are out of line and rarely at peace.
  • When we relinquish our own agendas, we are able to accept the times when God says “no” or wait” or “this instead.” Then, trusting his grace, we are ready to be delighted by the gifts he gives and the plans he sets out for us.

We can pray in faith and, at the same time, be willing for God in his wisdom to refuse our requests. Then, when God does say yes, that gift is all the sweeter.

Relinquishment to God’s will certainly doesn’t cause us to stop praying. On the contrary, as we become closer to our Lord, every circumstance is wrapped in prayer as we express our needs and look for his provision. There are miracles to be found in the mundane affairs of daily life if we will only watch for them. More about that next week. In the meantime, look forward! Let go of anything you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to relinquish. And may that choice give you rest!

Faith and Presumption

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I was staying at my parents’ condo a few weeks ago and borrowed my mom’s Bible. She writes in the margins, making her Bible all the more precious and insightful. Here is the passage I was reading from Matthew 14:25-33. (Underlining mine.)

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Here is the note Mom had penned in the margin: “Peter knew he could not walk on the water unless Jesus told him to.”

Peter asked Jesus to call him out onto the water, and then he waited for Christ’s command. We can, in our own pride and presumption, begin to consider ourselves to be in charge of—responsible for—far too much. Our God is an awesome God, ready to help us accomplish great things, but not all things. We are wise to seek his will and keep our efforts within his calling.

Secondly, if we doubt or fail, all is not lost. Yes, Peter sank. But he also walked. And he was still brought back into the boat by the Lord.

What are you considering this week? Pray. Seek the counsel of a good friend and of the Bible and of God’s still small voice. Don’t take on some challenge just because it is there. It may be meant for another. But, if you are convinced that God is calling you to some task, step out of the boat! Our Lord won’t let you drown.

Mrs. Oswald Chambers

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I’m reading Mrs. Oswald Chambers, and my aim today is to urge you to do the same. It’s the story of Biddy Chambers, helpmeet to the man credited with writing My Utmost for His Highest. It recounts the life of faith that Oswald and his wife lived and explains how the famous devotional came to be. I’m savoring this book, reading a bit at a time in the quiet of each morning. It’s engaging, inspiring, full of history, and packed with wisdom. Let me share just a bit with you.

These quotes from My Utmost for His Highest remind me to renew my trust:

 

  • How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear?
  • It is God who engineers circumstances.
  • God…gives strength…only for the strain of the minute.

These quotes from Mrs. Oswald Chambers have taught me once again that we serve God in all we do, even the simple things, and that we ought to be ready all the time to lay down our own agendas.

  • Their day together still began in the early dawn hours with the Daily Light reading, prayer, and a cup of tea…Other people filled their days, but they remained mindful of each other. (p.115)
  • Biddy ran a ministry open to interruptions throughout her life…Fortunately tea and soup could always be stretched. (p. 59)
  • The secret to Biddy’s unflustered reactions to her lengthy to-do list and surprise visitors lay in her prayer time every morning. She gave God the day and watched it unfold in his timing with anticipation.
  • Oswald’s teaching was plain: When you were not sure of what God wanted, examine the situation and your options and then do the next logical thing. (p.127)

Each time I open the book, I learn something new. Of course, the same is true of My Utmost for His Highest. I hope you will add that devotional to your reading list as well. Biddy and Oswald were missionaries no matter where they were. They took difficulty and discomfort in stride as they served. They loved deeply—both Christ and those He put in their path. What a description of life well lived!

And how was the world’s bestselling devotional born out of their efforts? I hope you’ll get a copy of Mrs. Oswald Chambers and see for yourself! You can click here to read more about the book. There’s even a free download of the first two chapters available at the bottom left corner of the site.