Last July, I recorded a few simple videos of my thoughts on Christians, love and reconciliation for my Facebook friends. Our children need to see, we all as Christians need to see the reality of Christ. The reality of Christ, at bottom, is not about being a social conservative, an opponent of this or a supporter of that, it’s about manifesting the traits of the One we claim to possess. I need to see this in my own experience. The God we proclaim can’t heal broken relationships? We expect our kids to believe God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing, yet He cannot repair broken families or relationships between fellow professing believers? I think we expect a bit much of others to believe in this invisible God when we as Christians live in abject brokenness, ugliness and dishonesty. Just sharing my heart here in this short video from last summer. (I’m sorry the video was a bit shaky, it was my phone in a Walmart parking lot!)
Distinguish between the fact of God’s presence, and the emotion of the fact. It is a happy thing when the soul seems desolate and deserted, if our faith can say, “I see Thee not. I feel Thee not, but Thou art certainly and graciously here, where I am as I am.” Say it again and again: “Thou art here: though the bush does not seem to burn with fire, it does burn. I will take the shoes from off my feet, for the place on which I stand is holy ground.” —London Christian
Believe God’s word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.
Keep your eye steadily fixed on the infinite grandeur of Christ’s finished work and righteousness. Look to Jesus and believe, look to Jesus and live! Nay, more; as you look to him, hoist your sails and buffet manfully the sea of life. Do not remain in the haven of distrust, or sleeping on your shadows in inactive repose, or suffering your frames and feelings to pitch and toss on one another like vessels idly moored in a harbor. The religious life is not a brooding over emotions, grazing the keel of faith in the shallows, or dragging the anchor of hope through the oozy tide mud as if afraid of encountering the healthy breeze. Away! With your canvas spread to the gale, trusting in Him, who rules the raging of the waters. The safety of the tinted bird is to be on the wing. If its haunt be near the ground—if it fly low—it exposes itself to the fowler’s net or snare. If we remain grovelling on the low ground of feeling and emotion, we shall find ourselves entangled in a thousand meshes of doubt and despondency, temptation and unbelief. “But surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of THAT WHICH HATH A WING” (marginal reading Prov. 1:17). Hope thou in God.
—J. R. Macduff
When I cannot enjoy the faith of assurance, I live by the faith of adherence.
THINK ON THIS THING
“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust.” Psalm 31:1a
My brother-in-law, Russ, sings this song written by my sister. They recorded it several years ago. I hope it is an encouragement to you, as it was to me today. The words speak for themselves. “Lord, fix my eyes on things eternal.”
I once saw a Sunday School chart on a wall where attendance was kept. For each Sunday that kids showed up, a sticker was placed on the chart with a cartoon drawing depicting Jesus on it. It is helpful for each of us to ponder whether that is the “Jesus” we as professing Christian believers have or not.
The world of Sticker Jesus is a confusing one. It seems to be a “Christian” place, if by “Christian” we mean adhering to a specific set of external standards. Certain things are shunned in a knee-jerk fashion, like rock music, smokes, booze, certain words, even playing cards (because somebody might think you are gambling.) I once heard someone rail against “sipping saints” while the indignant tee-totaling person was a nasty, lying gossip. (Sticker Jesus is not OK with a glass of wine with dinner, but gossip and slander and lies, not a problem.) So external rightness is the norm in Sticker Jesus Land, but upon closer scrutiny, other things don’t look Christian at all.
In Sticker Jesus Land, your behavior doesn’t have to look anything like the Jesus of the Bible. Here, you can invent false narratives to explain any relational irregularities in your life caused by your own corruption. (Please pray for Brother or Sister X, they have gone prodigal. Pray that something dramatic happens to bring them back to the Lord.) Worse still, Sticker Jesus followers actually come to believe those lying narratives. Blindness is the norm. Who cares if I am ignoring whole swaths of Scriptural teaching? My “Jesus” is the one I serve, and he tells me that it’s everyone else’s fault if things are bad behind the scenes. Let’s pray for those with a root of bitterness!
Sticker Jesus is OK with a lot of things the real Jesus is not OK with. That is, if you actually read what the real Jesus said in the Bible. Sadly, Sticker Jesus followers do incredible damage, because they wear deceptive masks. When the masks eventually come down, and they always do, those they have misled are left to wonder whether any real Jesus actually exists, because Sticker Jesus followers often give their family and followers a foretaste of hell, not heaven, and those burned and deceived want no more of that. Those affected by Sticker Jesus followers can be effectively inoculated against the real Jesus Christ because of the hurt they carry.
Sticker Jesus followers are legion. Real Jesus followers are rare—too rare. Better to have no pretense of a Jesus at all than to be a walking billboard for a counterfeit Christ.
Since posting on the subject of the love missing among Christians, I have heard from several people who are really hurting. One woman in our area has health problems that now keep her from her large, bustling Baptist church that she had been a part of for years. In the several months that have passed since she has had to stop attending church, not one on the large pastoral “team” has bothered to call on her. There is every program you can create at church, but no shepherd has visited and inquired how she is doing physically, let alone spiritually. This is the reality of institutional churches that have everything, but they lack the most important thing of all, the real Jesus.
This clip from Richard Owen Roberts (sent by my UK friend, Teeky,) really gripped me. We have to be the love or there won’t be any. We can’t look to spiritual leadership today, much of which is bankrupt and obsessed with programs and growth and image. We have to each be the love to each other. That’s all of our job in the body of Christ.
“Between cancer that required four surgeries, two brain aneurisms that required two more surgeries, and an accident when someone ran into his back with a vehicle, leading to yet more surgeries, it’s a marvel that Barros is standing, let alone maintaining the grueling schedule that he does.
Nine hours a day, six days a week, Barros holds vigil outside one of the country’s most notorious late-term abortion mills – the Orlando Women’s Clinic – where he preaches the Gospel and reaches out to abortion-bound women.
But for him, it’s beyond worth it. After all, in the past three years of sidewalk counseling, Barros has helped over 1,000 women change their minds, and keep their babies. But, for all of the hours that he has spent in prayer and outreach outside the clinic, Barros insists that he deserves none of the credit.
The story of every girl who comes to the clinic is different, “but the answer is the same,” he says. “The answer is always found in Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re here for, to lead them, point them to Jesus Christ.” Read full story here.
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