Friday, December 31, 2010

As You Really Are

Show me Thy ways
Teach me Thy paths
Free me from all of my fears.
Trusting in You is so easy to do
When I see You as You really are

As You really are ~ God and King
As You really are ~ Lord of everything
As You really are,
Help me to see You as You really are.

As You really are ~ risen and living
As You really are ~ just and yet forgiving
As You really are,
Help me to see You as You really are.

I love this song. I was reminded of it again this morning when I read the end of Andrew and Emma Murray by Leona Choy:

"Murray urges us to 'gaze and gaze again, worship and adore,
and the more we see Him as He is, the more like Him we must become...
by letting the heavenly likeness reflect itself
and shine out in our life among our fellow men.
This is what we have been redeemed for, and let this be what we live for.'"

Look at Jesus. Behold the Lamb. He takes away the sins of the world.


I want to always have my ear turned to hear Him, like a mother is always listening for the new baby's cry -- even in her sleep. "Sorry -- gotta go. I hear the Lord calling."

When I would have a new baby, sometimes my husband would send me away to shop for a little while alone. It blew my mind how a couple of hours into it, my body would make me aware that my baby needed me. I would head to the checkout, wherever I was, and drive home. Sure enough, I would arrive to find a wakeful baby who was ready to eat. To think the Lord is like that with us. Aware of our needs. We ought to be assured that the hunger pang that wakes us connects us to Him as surely as the insurge of milk connects the nursing mother to her baby.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At The Table

"Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day
to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem...
While they conversed and reasoned,
Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
...Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets,
He expounded to them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning Himself.
Then they drew near to the village where they were going,
and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
But they constrained Him, saying,
'Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.'
And He went in to stay with them.
Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them,
that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him;
and He vanished from their sight."
(From Luke 24)

As I read this to my children this morning, I thought about Hebrews 13:2, which tells us not to forget to entertain strangers, remembering that some who have done so have 'entertained angels unaware'. Such a colorful phrase.

They did not recognize Him on their seven mile walk with Him. They did not recognize Him through His heart-burning exposition of the entire Old Testament to them. And although Jesus was not above inviting Himself to peoples' houses for a meal, in this instance, He would have just kept going had they not pressed Him to stay. They recognized Him at the table in the breaking of bread and in prayer. What if they hadn't shown hospitality?

Don't you love being pressed to stay with people? Having your plans changed by urged hospitality? My husband one time came home from work and told me that some people were coming to stay the night with us and have dinner with us. They were only five minutes behind him. They were a touring German couple he had run into. We spent that night and a day later talking about the things of the Lord with them, stirring them to holy living, and it was so fruitful and so obviously Spirit-led. I don't normally invite foreign strangers to stay in my house with me. It scares me. But a Bible study would not have produced the beautiful fruit the hospitality did. We asked some friends on short notice to eat dinner with us one night, and the girl said, "Oh, I love spontaneous hospitality!" I like that expression.

Just as this was on my mind, we read an account of George Washington's life in Virginia. It said that he sent someone to stand near the crossroads sometimes to 'waylay travelers' to come to dinner at his house. I love to be 'waylaid' to come to dinner.

Monday, December 27, 2010

And the Hills Disappear

"For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then
My faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,"
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

~Isaiah 54:10

Friday, December 24, 2010

God in a Body

 The language in the old hymn is far more beautiful than what follows. But, oh, the Incarnation -- the beautiful mystery of the ages. Making it plain only sets off its dazzling splendor.

Listen: the announcing angels are singing
the magnificence of the newborn King:
the end of hostilities; free pardon to the offenders--
friendship restored between God and sinners.

Full of joy, stand up, everyone!
Join the victory celebration of heaven;
Yell out with the angels,
"The Savior was born in Bethlehem!"

Messiah, worshiped by highest heaven--
Messiah, the everlasting Lord:
Wanted for a long time, see Him come
and live in a hovel here.

Clothed in flesh, look at the Godhead,
Welcome God in a body!
Happy to live as a man with humans,
YHWH is salvation, our God with us.

Greet the Prince of Peace from heaven!
Welcome the Source of Holiness!
He brings Light and Life to all
He lifts Himself up with healing for us.

Softly, He lays His magnificence aside,
and is born to put an end to death,
born to lift the sons of dirt,
born to make them live again!

Listen, the announcing angels are singing
the magnificence of the newborn King.

Do you recognize the hymn I paraphrased?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Bookmark in Affliction

I have been for some time slowly working my way through Edith Schaeffer's book Affliction. I bought it in 1995, I think: I started it in 2010. It is a book that sometimes leaves me weeping, and often leaves me nodding, and writing a prayer in the margin. The bookmark I have in it is a plain strip of card stock upon which I wrote, "In all our afflictions, He is afflicted."

That ministers to me so much. Fellowship with Jesus in suffering makes a temple out of a pit.

I read some time back about a study that showed that being touched by a loved one reduced pain in patients -- I think it even lowered their blood pressure. In the midst of wracking pain I remember the comfort I received from my husband's hand laid on me. When we suffer, learning to recognize the touch of His hand is one of the benefits of the experience. Unlike our medical caregivers, who have often not experienced whatever we are being treated for, our Great Physician is afflicted in all our afflictions. The difference between care administered by doctors and nurses who have suffered themselves, and those who have only read of suffering is huge. Our High Priest is touched with our weaknesses -- He suffers our hurts. And He lays His hand on us in them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Darkest Day

For many years, I have overheard disdainful comments about the celebration of Christmas in December.

"It's a pagan celebration of the winter solstice."
The trees are evil.
It's too commercial.
It's the feast of Saturnalia.
Jesus was not born in December.

Personally, though, I love that for a short season every year I hear the Gospel in song in public places. That the whole world considers Immanuel, God With Us. That His humility and His compassion for us are something to pause over even to those who haven't yet received Him.

It is the darkest time of the year, and He came to us in our darkness -- the Light of the world. When my third child was born, I looked at her and broke down because I thought about Him. That He would condescend to a human birth -- an arrival that requires washing for its messiness -- just overwhelmed me. I think it is appropriate to celebrate the arrival of the Light of the world in the darkest days of the year. He is Light, and every one of us who has received Him has had Him come to us in our darkness. Dark minds. Dark hearts. Dark futures.

I saw a news article today that said that this year the winter solstice and a lunar eclipse are coinciding for the first time in 456 years -- making Tuesday the darkest day in over four centuries.

Joy to the world: the Lord is come--
Let earth receive her King!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Consciousness of Failure

"Let us trust Him and praise Him
in the midst of a consciousness of failure and of a remaining tendency to sin.
Notwithstanding this,
let us believe that our God loves to dwell in us;
and let us hope in His still more abundant grace.
...No more speak of the feebleness of your consecration.
Our mistake is, I think, that we form our own ideal
of an abiding exhibition of power and success
which is not according to the mind of God."

~Andrew Murray

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Like Losing Time

"When you first begin waiting on God,
it is with frequent intermission and failure.
But, do believe God is watching over you in love
and secretly strengthening you in it.
There are times when waiting appears just like losing time,
but it is not so.
Waiting, even in darkness, is unconscious advance,
because it is God you have to do with,
and He is working in you.
God, who calls you to wait on Him,
sees your feeble efforts, and works it in you.
Your spiritual life is in no respect your own work;
as little as you begin it, can you continue it.
It is God's Spirit who has begun the work in you of waiting upon God.
He will enable you..."

~Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Friday, December 10, 2010

God's Plan

"Understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself.
In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments...
Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.
Then  your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness."
(Colossians 2:2-7)

God's plan is Christ. Mysterious. Beautiful. We have no wisdom and no knowledge in ourselves. But in Him they lie hidden. And when we let our roots grow down into Him, we draw our strength and our sustenance from Him. Letting our lives be built on Christ, we reject the alternate foundation of anything else. Christ is our base. He is our soil if we would bear fruit. He is the plan of God. God has no alternative route to holiness for me. If I would be sanctified, if I would live -- it is Christ I must live in. If I would be God's child, Christ is my only hope.

If I am trying to grow in holiness outside the soil of Christ Himself, I will wither and die. When I consider Him, I can lift my head in faith, because of who He is. My faith grows strong, because it isn't in me, and thankfulness is unavoidable because He works in me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Many Things

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," Jesus told His friends on the eve of His crucifixion. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." (John 16:12,13)

It is remarkable to me that Jesus restrained Himself from telling them what He knew they needed to know, but could not yet understand. He considered them in the state that they were in, and held back. But even more amazing to me is His trust in the Holy Spirit's work. He trusted that in leaving them without telling them these things, and sending the Holy Spirit to them, they would have the teaching they needed. If God With Us can trust the Holy Spirit to speak to His own, I think we would do well to also trust Him. He trusted the Holy Spirit to fulfill His mission.

Many years ago, a friend of mine who had been straying from the Lord returned to Him with some baggage. Our relationship in the past had been one of me telling my friend what was right, and my friend, being a genial person, would do it. My friend called me one night for advice about the baggage. I, being a person of many opinions, knew exactly how my friend should handle the issue. But I plainly felt the Holy Spirit telling me to be quiet, and not offer an answer. I suggested my friend pray and ask the Lord for wisdom, which He promises to give us when we ask. I had the great joy of seeing my friend learn to walk. We prayed with one another, and I trusted the Holy Spirit to teach my friend. And He did.

Too often we try to take over His job, and we get in the way of others learning to hear from Him for themselves, and learning to walk on their own feet. But people who walk on their own feet, although they may stumble and trip, have stronger legs than those who are carried everywhere. And the Holy Spirit is a better teacher than I am.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Wind Blows

My husband mentioned to the children tonight that if they are ever confused or upset, and they need to talk, that they can talk to us, and ask us questions, and although we won’t always know the answers to their questions, we would be happy to pray with them. He told them he didn’t want them to feel like they couldn’t talk about things. “And if it’s something private, you can ask, and we will talk to you privately.”

Without warning, a child sobbed out, “Sometimes I feel like I hate them (indicating the other children), and I don’t want to!” I held the child in my arms and heard the cries of torment over this hateful heart. It wasn’t self-pity. It was the horror of what was inside.

“This is why we need God to give us a new heart, a clean heart, because that same wicked hatred is in everyone’s heart.” I told the child that when I was a little girl, I knew that I was like Cain, with murder in my heart. I assured this child that although that is a very wicked sin, God’s word promises us that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to wash us clean of all that sin. I said we needed to pray and ask God for a new heart, that the Lord would change that.

“I have been praying about it,” the child said. I prayed, too. We prayed 1 John 1:9, and we asked that the Holy Spirit would fill the child's heart with His love, and wash that sin away.

I said it was because the Holy Spirit was working in the child's life that the hateful heart disturbed the child -- there could be no peace with it. I talked about the Holy Spirit’s work -- that He is there to convict us both of sin, and of righteousness. That He points to our rotten hearts, and says, “This is sin -- it needs to go.” And that He points to good things, and says, “This is good.” And I prayed the child would be able to hear when the Holy Spirit is speaking. And I mentioned how I have seen this child choose to be kind and to do what is right even when I knew it was not easy. The child left my arms smiling and free. Two siblings were lined up for hugs.

“The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.
It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
(John 3:8)

It is a beautiful thing to see the effect of the Holy Spirit interacting with someone right before your eyes -- though you cannot see Him.