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“And when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him” (Joshua 6:5).
The shout of steadfast faith is in direct contrast to the moans of wavering faith, and to the wails of discouraged hearts. Among the many “secrets of the Lord,” I do not know of any that is more valuable than the secret of this shout of faith. The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.” He had not said, “I will give,” but “I have given.” It belonged to them already; and now they were called to take possession of it. But the great question was, How? It looked impossible, but the Lord declared His plan.
Now, no one can suppose for a moment that this shout caused the walls to fall. And yet the secret of their victory lay in just this shout, for it was the shout of a faith which dared, on the authority of God’s Word alone, to claim a promised victory, while as yet there were no signs of this victory being accomplished. And according to their faith God did unto them; so that, when they shouted, He made the walls to fall.
God had declared that He had given them the city, and faith reckoned this to be true. And long centuries afterwards the Holy Ghost recorded this triumph of faith in Hebrews:
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.”
–Hannah Whitall Smith.
“Faith can never reach its consummation,
Till the victor’s thankful song we raise:
In the glorious city of salvation,
God has told us all the gates are praise.”
Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, the son of David. — Matthew 22:42
By J. C. Ryle
First published by Drummond’s Tract Depot, Stirling, Scotland
Christmas is a season which almost all Christians observe in one way or another. Some keep it as a religious season. Some keep it as a holiday. But all over the world, wherever there are Christians, in one way or another Christmas is kept.
Perhaps there is no country in which Christmas is so much observed as it is in England. Christmas holidays, Christmas parties, Christmas family-gatherings, Christmas services in churches, Christmas hymns and carols, Christmas holly and mistletoe,—who has not heard of these things? They are as familiar to English people as anything in their lives. They are among the first things we remember when we were children. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were used to them long before we were born. They have been going on in England for many hundred years. They seem likely to go on as long as the world stands.
But, reader, how many of those who keep Christmas ever consider why Christmas is kept? How many, in their Christmas plans and arrangements, give a thought to Him, without whom there would have been no Christmas at all? How many ever remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of Christmas ? How many ever reflect that the first intention of Christmas was to remind Christians of Christ’s birth and coming into the world? Reader, how is it with you? What do you think of at Christmas?
Bear with me a few minutes, while I try to press upon you the question which heads this tract. I do not want to make your Christmas merriment less. I do not wish to spoil your Christmas cheer. I only wish to put things in their right places. I want Christ Himself to be remembered at Christmas! Give me your attention while I unfold the question—”What think ye of Christ?”
I. Let us consider, firstly, why all men ought to think of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a wonderful Swedish song called, “I Look Not Back.” I learned it from a recording at a Lutheran college some years ago. Here are the words:
I look not back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets.
I leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And graciously forgives, and then forgets.
I look not forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me its ev’ry trial,
And bear for me the burdens that may come.
I look not round me; then would fears assail me.
So wild the tumult of earth’s restless seas,
So dark the world, so filled with woe and evil,
So vain the hope of comfort and of ease.
I look not inward; that would make me wretched;
For I have naught on which to stay my trust.
Nothing I see save failures and shortcomings,
And weak endeavors, crumbling into dust.
But I look up–into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and ev’ry hope fulfilled.
The author of these lyrics is listed as that famous person, “Anonymous”, but the lovely tune is by Oskar Ahnfeld. I wish I could share a recording of it, but sadly, I couldn’t find a link.
The words underscore the importance of watching our view in life. Where we look can make the difference between despair and discouragement and having joy and hope.
Austin Sparks, an old path preacher from the last century, wrote a wonderful message on this theme, “Looking Unto Jesus.” The full message in print is at this link, but here is an excerpt:
“…Now this word is – adjust everything to the end, have all your affairs in life brought into line with God’s end. When you are considering a relationship, have God’s end in view. When you are considering the next step in your life, have God’s end in view. When you are deciding where you are going to live and do your work, have God’s end in view. When you are deciding what your business is going to be, have God’s end in view. Everything brought into line – that is the meaning of this “Make level the path of thy feet” or “Weigh carefully the path of thy feet”. We have to say to ourselves, ‘Now then, this is an opportunity, a prospect, that seems to hold a lot of good; but first of all, what is this going to mean for the Lord, how does this relate to the full end of God?’ Nothing less than that must weigh with us. “Let thine eyes look right on” – not just at this thing, not even at what it seems to promise, but right on. How does it relate to the end? In all things, look beyond; see what is the relation to the full end of God; and adjust accordingly. Get the vision, and adjust life as far as possible in relation to it. “Weigh carefully the paths of thy feet and order them aright. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left”. “Let thine eyes look right on”.
As things worsen in our culture and in the visible church, we need to make sure our eyes are firmly on Jesus. The enemy will try endless ways to distract us from the One who matters. Thousands of hours are filled on America’s airwaves each week documenting the collapse of everything that once stood firm in our society. As Christians, we work for what is right and do all we can to be lights in our culture, but whatever we do, we have to ultimately have our eyes on Jesus and His glory. This world is temporal. As Kipling put it, “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”
God is eternal. Our souls are forever. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus.
(I wrote another post here 2 years ago on the same theme!)
My grandmother told me once that a relative of hers would go to prayer when there was an insurmountable obstacle in her life—something important that was lost, some need that emerged, a situation that could not be humanly resolved. Then, after praying, she would look up and say, “Now we’ll see what God can do!”
In Scripture we are told that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways. He sees the big picture, but we only see what is directly in front of us. We ask for something to be fixed, and he does something altogether unexpected and different. Not what we ask for always, but something that takes us further on the journey God has intended for us.
Relinquishing our own vision of what needs to happen is key. Otherwise you can completely miss the hand of God, or even shun it. I am seeing this so clearly in my life these days. We can rattle door handles at times, yearning for an answer to our pleas, looking around for that open door or the next step, maybe even take off in a direction, only to learn that God had something else entirely.
More than anything else, I have found freedom in relinquishing human goals in exchange for what God has for that moment, however humble. Chafing and casting around constantly is not peaceful, and it isn’t productive. That’s because it’s too much of us, and not enough of Christ. As we take on whatever tasks God brings before us, however different from our human ideas, we can stop wasting energy, time and emotion. It’s called contentment.
The work we often vest with so much importance in our thinking can not only be the least important for our souls, but can serve as an obstacle to the deeper heart work God has for us. There’s a time to charge ahead with something, and there’s a time to step back. Failure to do this results in a great poverty of the soul that manifests in bad fruit in our lives. We can become brittle, impatient, prideful and defensive.
I am convinced that when we embrace contentedness and quiet, even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable difficulties, God will act. What He does in our lives may surprise us. I’ve learned that some of God’s richest gifts often come in strange-looking packages (tied up with string, as the song goes), but if He is truly sovereign, as His Word unmistakably declares, we can accept and even embrace those packages delivered to our door.
Today I am faced with a couple of exciting new packages in life! As my forebear said it so well years ago, “Now we’ll see what God can do!“
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
- Isaiah 55:8-9
Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
- Ephesians 3:20-21
She was miserable one night and came to find me in the kitchen. Throwing her arms up she suddenly cried, “Take care of me, Mama!” In one short, plaintive plea, all her longing for comfort came through.
As I swooped her up in my arms, I thought of how often the needs and misery in our lives force us to seek some kind of relief and solace. The cry, “take care of me” is never far from human lips. The healthiest among us can be felled by something so small it can only be seen by a microscope. Ugly surprises in life can bring down the most wealthy, successful and confident.
At those times the need for solace can drive people to find help and relief from a number of sources. Some try to find it in food, in busyness and constant motion, in the noise of news or entertainment media, booze, drugs, sex, shopping and a million other things. None of them will provide the real peace and comfort that is needed. Only God has what is needed at our deepest level. Everything else just medicates the symptoms.
At dark times in the life of a Christian, it can feel as though that cry, “Lord, take care of me!” is not answered. Long stretches of time where it seems as though there are no answers can damage the faith that your outstretched arms are even seen.
Then God does something so unexpected you are blown away. It may not be the specific answer you sought, it may not be anywhere close to the time frame that you had envisioned, but some other form of provision comes, some surprising way God reaches down to you and shows you, unmistakably, that He has seen your need and has provided.
We experienced that this week in our lives in a surprising, unexpected and frankly stunning provision by the Lord, a reminder that He does see the details of our lives and responds in love.
As a child of God, the only way to have needs met is to do what Emily did that night – to throw up our arms and cry out, “Lord, take care of me! I’m needy. I’m miserable. You alone have the answer!”
Emily’s simple trust that I would lift her up and care for her is the trust we need to have for our Savior. He alone has the answer to our needs in every area of our lives, and in tough times, we can find comfort that God is there, in the shadows, keeping watch over his own.
A thunderstorm had left our area two nights ago, but a few minutes later, Will was watching out the window and witnessed a large tree coming down towards our house. I captured the aftermath here. (Initially I thought it was just a branch, not the whole tree!) The rest of the story follows the video.
As you can hear in my capturing of the moment, I was concerned about how we would clean up the mess and how much it would cost. I even grumbled as this is the THIRD tree incident since we have lived here. (I won’t get into the Night of Falling Trees back when we lived in South Carolina. Suffice it to say that an ice storm caused trees all over our wooded property to crash from the weight of the branches as we sat in the dark without electricity. But that’s another story.)
Our family brought the situation up in prayer that night, and then Tom went to see the neighbor to discuss what to do. The tree was right at the border of the property line, and we weren’t sure whose tree it actually was. Not one but two neighbors and their young adult sons came out to help both that night and the next day. They got out their saws, cleared the branches, and one of the neighbor’s daughters knew a man with a truck who would take the wood. It’s almost gone now, just a bit left to be picked up tomorrow! How wonderful to have kind neighbors like this.
I share this to encourage those who sometimes feel small in faith and discouraged. I think God allows these things in our lives just to show His provision in our need. The lesson from our fallen tree is to stop with the grumbling and pray. Whining and worrying does no good. Prayer is the voice of faith, and God has an answer.
I was reading an old book this morning, published in 1950. My friend Sherry mailed it to me several years ago along with several other Old Path books of spiritual richness. I want to share these paragraphs with you today.
“In my early life I entered into a partnership with a friend in the wholesale ice businessAs time passed on we met with disappointments. For two seasons in succession our ice was swept away by winter freshets. Things had come to a serious pass. It seemed very necessary that we should have ice in the winter of which I now speak. The weather became very cold. The ice formed and grew thicker and thicker, until it was fit to gather. I remember the joy that came into our hearts one afternoon when there came an order for thousands of tons of ice which would lift us entirely out from our financial stress. Not long before God had let me see the truth of committal. He showed me that it was His will that I should commit my business to Him and trust Him with it absolutely. As best I knew how I had done so. I never dreamed what testing was coming.
And so I lay down that Saturday night in quietness. But, at midnight there came an ominous sound – that of rain. By morning it was pouring in torrents. I looked out upon the river from my home upon the village hillside. Yellow streaks of water were creeping over the ice. I knew what that meant. The water was at flood stage. That condition had swept away our ice twice before. By noon the storm was raging in all its violence. By afternoon I had come into a great spiritual crisis in my life.
That might seem strange – to come into a spiritual crisis over a seemingly trivial matter. But I have learned this: a matter may be seemingly trivial, but the crisis that turns upon a small matter may be a profound and far-reaching one in our lives. And so it was with me. For by mid-afternoon that day I had come face to face with the tremendous fact that down deep in my heart was a spirit of rebellion against God. And that rebelliousness seemed to develop in a suggestion to my heart like this:
“You gave all to God. You say you are going to trust God with your business. This the way He requites you. Your business will be swept away, and tomorrow you will come into a place of desperate financial stress.” And I found my heart growing bitter at the thought that God should take away my business when I wanted it only for legitimate purposes.
Then another voice seemed to speak: “My child, did you mean it when you said you would trust Me? Can you not trust Me in the dark as well as in the light? Would I do anything, or suffer anything to come into your life which will not work out good for you?” And then came that other voice: “But it is hard. Why should not God spare your ice? Why should He take your business when it is clean and honest and you want to use it aright?” It was a very plausible sort of voice, and for the moment I did not detect the serpent hiss that was in it – in that word, “Why.”
Still back and forth with ever-increasing intensity, waged one of the greatest spiritual battles of my life. At the end of two hours, by the grace of God, I was able to cry out, “Take the business; take the ice; take everything; only give me the supreme blessing of an absolutely submitted will to Thee.” And then came peace.
The storm was still beating upon the earth and upon my ice. But it did not seem to make any difference whether it rained or ceased. Then and there I discovered that the secret of anxious care is not in surroundings, but in the failure of allowing life and will to be wholly given up to Him amid all circumstances and surroundings.
That night I lay down to rest in perfect peace, but with the rain pouring torrents upon my field of ice, and with every prospect that my business would lie in wreck the next morning. But it did not. By midnight there came another sound that of wind. By morning the bitterest blizzard of the year was upon us. By evening the mercury had fallen to the zero point. And in a few days we were harvesting the finest ice we ever had. God did not want my ice. But He did want my yielded will, and my absolute trust in Him, and when that was settled, He gave back the ice; He blessed the business; and He led me on and out, until He guided me from it entirely, into the place He had for me from the beginning – that of a teacher of His Word.”
~ James McConkey, as quoted in Crowded to Christ, by L.E. Maxwell
Thought for Today: Stand still and see God’s Salvation
Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” Precipitancy cries, “Do something; stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.” Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it, and expect a miracle.” But Faith listens neither to Presumption nor to Despair nor to Cowardice nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands.
~ C.H. Spurgeon
If you have a chance to buy a used copy of Crowded to Christ, take it. I only saw two available on Amazon used, but they were not cheap. The book is real gold, especially for those going through very difficult, trying and bewildering times. When we are “crowded to Christ”, real faith is the only choice.
It’s hard to believe it’s only a week until Christmas. Will had his Christmas program at school last night. He played, “Ding Dong Merrily on High” on the piano. My nephew Jesse is playing his trumpet tomorrow night with the band at his school’s Christmas program, and I will be his proud aunt in the audience. Will is accompanying a children’s Christmas program this Sunday morning.
We had an early Christmas with Aunt Kris who always brings a lot of joy with her, as does Uncle Mike when he is able to come. Christmas Eve, I am accompanying Tom to a midnight service where he is playing. Emily will be tucked up in bed sound asleep and watched over by her guardian brothers. Once again, I will sit alone in a dark church, without distraction, listening to the beautiful words and music of the Christmas Eve vigil. It’s a deeply meaningful way of remembering the mystery of the Incarnation.
We are not having a big meal on Christmas Day. I made a turkey on Thanksgiving and wore myself out. The consensus is that everybody wants to take it easy this year. So I am going to make some hot ham and buy some rolls, and we will have a very easy Christmas dinner without all the clean-up time. The big meals are nice, but I think everybody would prefer to just spend our time together without a lot of fuss.
Tom’s long running music job comes to an end this weekend, and we will get him back again! This year, the show did not run all the way until Christmas so we are very pleased to have him back early. After weeks of being so busy, he is looking forward to a quiet Christmas Day.
What we need in all our lives is to see the power of that Savior who was born in Bethlehem. The Nativity becomes nothing more than a romantic story if it is stripped of its larger meaning. Bethlehem led to Calvary. It was on Calvary that the power of sin, death and hell were broken. We desperately need to see the power of our resurrected Jesus in our lives. Otherwise, it is just a fairy tale. We need more than a Christmas card Jesus. We need to see the power of the living Jesus to heal lives, restore relationships and reconcile us to each other in love and forgiveness. May God show His power this Christmas and every day of our lives.
O Come let us adore Him, Christ the LORD.
“My cup runneth over.”
Glad and festal moments come to the saddest and most weary hearts. At the close of a prolonged strain of anxiety, when lying exhausted on the desert sand, sleep casts its spell over the tired nature; angels spread the refreshing banquet; and the soul awakes beneath the celestial touch, invigorated for new toils.
We cannot always tell whence such experiences come; this is all we know: that the step is more elastic, the heart swells with buoyant hope, songs break from the lips, and the whole being thrills, as nature does on some lovely day of spring. “When the Lord turns again our captivity, the mouth is filled with laughter, and the tongue with singing: then we say among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”
At such hours life seems to us like a chalice mixed by the loving hand of God, and overflowing with His mercy and loving-kindness. And with tears struggling with smiles for the mastery, as rain and sunbeams on an April day, we lift the brimming cup to our lips and cry, “My cup runneth over.”
A similar experience is unfolded in another psalm, which, like so many of its character, touches the lowest depths and springs, as well as the topmost heights of human experience. It begins with the plaintive notes of trouble, “the sorrows of death, and the pains of hell,” and with rash imputations upon the truth of all men. It tells how in his need the psalmist called upon the name of the Lord. It recounts the glorious deliverance there was wrought on his behalf. And now, as he reviews his lot, it seems like a cup full of salvation, charged with the prompt, gentle, and sufficient deliverance wrought for him by the Almighty (Psa 116:12-13).