Who Knew?

The shepherds are gone back now to watching their sheep.  The angels have long since gone away back into the heavens.  Simeon and Anna will be waiting for the next week or so in the temple to see the Messiah they have long prayed and hoped would come in their lifetimes…They will die in peace. He has come.  But who else knew?

A few observant star-gazers will bow at this toddler’s feet.  Herod will be notified that a rival has been born and order the murder of all  Bethlehem’s infants…Mary and Joseph, forewarned, will sequester the child in Egypt for a while…But who else knew that their Messiah had come?  This one born to save the world from its helpless estate had been announced to a select few but now the excitement is over, the unsung days and years settle in.

Isn’t this the way it is after the height of the Christmas season?  The music fades.  The tree comes down.  Routine returns as the crumbs of Christmas baking are swept away…And a whole lot of unsung days ensue. And who remembers that a Savior has been born and life can never be the same?

For Mary there’ll be the rounds of diapers and feedings, of cuddles and training, of meals and mundane.  The King of Kings must learn to walk, to talk, and to become an ordinary little Jewish boy from Nazareth–an apprentice in the carpenter shop perhaps. These are the unsung years.

But all the while Mary knows salvation is coming.  “God Saves” she repeats every time she calls His name.  And little by little Jesus will grow and become strong and be filled with wisdom.  The favor of God rests on him. But what a long slow march fills this gap between promise and fulfillment.  How slowly the darkness is overcome by the Light of the world.  How slowly salvation seems to come.

All the heavens rang at his birth.  Ages of prophecy climaxed here.  And yet it was only another stage in the unfurling of redemption…a story that continues all around us and in us.

People sit in darkness still, unaware that there is a better way to live.  And even we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit wait eagerly for the hope of righteousness  which will come with the redemption of our bodies(Rom.8:23) (Gal.5:5).

A few shepherds were privy to the glorious announcement of God’s redemptive plan—“A Savior has been born to you!” but the bulk of Bethlehem’s population missed it.  And with each passing year of celebrating Jesus’ birth, still Hope eludes so many.  Personal redemption remains a mystery.  For many the new year will be very much like the old one…a year of working out one’s own salvation as though life depended on it.  Only a few saw the starry sky, the hosts of angels.  Only a few heard God’s revelation that a Savior had been born for them…

And yet, salvation has come.  Hope was born that night.  And for those who have seen God’s glory as revealed in Jesus–for those who have believed– the Light shines in them and through them.  God’s redemptive work has begun. God is with us, His Spirit at work in the night of our culture, in dim places we cannot fathom Him reaching.  You know the places—those ‘impossible’ situations you wonder how the Gospel can ever permeate…there are names and faces we each carry in our hearts… And we, like Mary ponder the passing of years and wonder when ‘the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ (II Cor.4:4) will shine in these places.  How will their redemption be accomplished?  The Savior has been born but who knew then?  Who knows now? And how long before they are saved?

But as I reflect on the passage of time from Jesus’ birth to His ‘It is finished’, and from then till now…it is clear that the timetable of redemption is not in our control.  God is in no hurry; nor is He slow to keep His promises.  Our part is to present ourselves, living sacrifices, for His purposes, whatever that entails, even as Mary did: “Behold, I am the bondservant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” Lk.1:38.

We have not been called to give birth to the Savior, but we do carry Him with us into the world day by day. And though we cannot personally effect a single soul’s redemption we can believe that “nothing will be impossible with God.”  Lk.1:37,38 And we can pray for eyes to be unveiled to the Gospel’s glory.(II Cor.4:4) Only God can accomplish this.

So as we wrap up another Christmas season and lay to rest both its sweetness and its sorrows…as we face another year and wonder when and how redemption will be accomplished in the myriad of situations we carry on our hearts…let’s continue to hold onto the hope of Christmas. A Savior has been born to us.  He is still the answer.  He alone can reconcile man to God–the crucial need at the heart of every woe. His Lordship alone can bring peace on earth and within our own hearts.

We who know Him, who have glimpsed the glory of the Gospel,  have every reason to  maintain a joyful expectation regardless of the blackness of the night.  God is at the helm of redemption’s plan.  He will accomplish it—our salvation is nearer now than when we believed!    Who knows what He will do in the coming year?  Let’s be attending to our sheep on the hillsides alert to the glory of the skies.  Our redemption draws nigh!

–LS

“…who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 1:5-7 ESV

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
I Pet.1:8-9 ESV

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Cor. 4:6 KJV

“…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Rom 13:11-12 KJV

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.  Luke 21:27-28 KJV

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Sleepless Nights

There are things not worth losing sleep over…

With just days remaining till Christmas morning dawns, these are the nights mothers stay awake– either doing things to get ready or thinking of things that need yet to be done! Sugar plums fairies aren’t dancing in our heads. No. Greedy gremlins grimace there–egging us on to do more, more, more to make everyone happy and the holiday unforgettable…It’s all up to us! (?)

There are endless lists of things to make, bake, buy, wrap, and mail…And then there are the ‘stocking stuffers’ that send us back to the store to meander in circles trying to find the perfect little ‘somethings’ and maybe just one more gift while we’re at it. After all, we don’t want anyone to be disappointed on Christmas morning…

And is it just me, or are other moms dogged by the persistent glimmer of an elusive gift that hangs just beyond our consciousness waiting to be thought of?  We wake at night scratching our heads to conjure it up but it eludes us…that ideal gift.  No, these are definitely not sugar plum fairies. Anticipation isn’t the cause of our sleepless nights. Anxiety is!

A roaring lion, this, stalking his prey in the middle of the night…looking for someone to devour…. How about this mother. She looks peaceful sleeping there…She thinks everything’s under control and that this year is going to be a peaceful celebration of the real reasons for the Christmas Season. Wait till I get through with her!

And then they come, the arrows–pangs of reminder that the time is too short, the presents too few and too feeble. And this idea of having a peaceful season, why it’s simply laughable. Never! You’re a Martha, not a Mary!

It’s sabotage at its best–get ’em when they’re down with sleep muddling their heads.

Have you been there? I don’t know about you but I’m more vulnerable in the night to anxiety’s taunting. By day I’m happily busy, trying to be intentional about what matters and let the rest slide. The annual family letter, the Carols by Candlelight tradition with friends, the Christmas music—these I value. A bit of decorating and some baking too. I even made one homemade card this year which may arrive at its destination by the New Year! (sorry, sis!) But best of all for keeping the peace (and the joy!) of Christmas is spending time in the quiet of morning, or at the hearing of a carol, pondering the mystery and wonder of Christmas.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory…”

Or as a modern Christmas anthem puts it:

“God Invisible appears, endless ages wrapped in years”*

I’ve heard more than enough of “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”. But what other time of year is the Gospel played and sung so unapologetically in public places? Have you heard it? O come, oh come Emmanuel…Joy to the World—the Lord is come; let earth receive her King… O Holy night, when Christ was born…The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

People with little personal connection to the words they are singing, declare the gospel for all to hear. And surely some hear and wonder… Yes, amidst all the Jingle bells and Silver bells, manger scenes too are extolled in song. Over the din of busyness and the distraction of giving and getting, there is a real reason for hope, for joy, for celebration—God was born a boy-child to reconcile us to Himself! This is news we can’t let slide. And somehow it’s got to make a difference in the way we do Christmas. If Mighty God has lived where we do He knows the crush of pressing details, of endless opportunity to serve, of what it means to walk in the world to the beat of a different Drummer (and I don’t meant the Little Drummer Boy!!).

Even on the nights when to-do lists loom large, especially on those nights, it’s worth meditating on the one reason worth losing sleep over—A Savior has been born to you—Come and see!!

That was the announcement that left the shepherds sleepless and sheepless rushing to the stable. Nothing else mattered! Only one great joy filled their minds with intent—to find that baby and bow in wonder.

Years later a Mary from another story would sit in awe at Jesus’ feet. No longer in a stable, He was grown now and in her home visiting. Imagine getting ready for that event?! No wonder her sister, Martha, was anxious and “troubled about many things”. Mothers understand. Christmastime gets like this. In the bustle to celebrate Jesus’ birth we so easily relegate conversing with Him to second priority. But Jesus said only one thing was needful and Mary had found it. (Luke 10:41-42) This was the best part for her—the being able to sit at His feet and listen to Him teach.

Mary and Jesus

Can you picture her face, her posture, her heart? In my mind’s eye is a picture from an old children’s Bible we read to our own kids, of a young Mary sitting adoringly at Jesus’ feet with eager face upturned, listening… Recalling it when I am ‘troubled about many things’ reminds me of the one thing that is needful—O Come, Let Us Adore Him…

And I’ve found it this week to be the cure for insomnia brought on by lurking lions preying on sleeping mothers… Counting sheep is futile. But there is a shepherd who cares. Will I wait on Him to direct my limited energies? He is no Santa but I can trust Him with my Christmas lists. He invites me to make my requests and leave my lists in a heap at His feet. Then to sit awhile and listen for His words to quiet my soul..

When I turn my attention not to counting ‘to do’s, but to counting on Him to do what is best, rest returns. Only when I insist on doing it all am I anxious.  I can do nothing of value without Him.  And did you notice His solution for Martha was not to pitch in and help her get it all done?!  My lists too may need revising in light of what’s important about CHRISTmas.  Am I OK with that?  Can I stop striving to think of the perfect present and trust Him to direct my thoughts and efforts?  He is after all the Giver of all good gifts (Ja.1:17).  Surely I can trust Him with those I care most about.  Will I cast my cares on Him and rest under His mighty hand? He gives to His beloved sleep, but only if we’re willing to rest in His care.

These are things not worth losing sleep over…

–LS

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. [Unless the Lord participates in your Christmas preparations, you labor in vain that prepare.] Ps.127:1-2 Amplified by me!

Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen! Rev. 1:4-6

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! II Cor.9:15

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*“God Invisible appears, endless ages wrapped in years” [Words by Charles Wesley and Bob Kauflin]

Lyrics are from “Glory be to God” from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man by Sovereign Grace Music.  I highly recommend this all-original Christmas themed album, as its lyrics point solidly in a fresh way to the reasons we have to celebrate!  Have a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTGMpfATTfY

[Above illustration is by Donald Kueker in The Bible for Children, Tyndale Publ:1990, p.1184.]

Humbled Prayer

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I had not seen it before—this business of pride being the antithesis of casting care.  It’s right there prefacing a passage I’ve loved since I was a kid learning to cope with my propensity to worry…

You know the passage: “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” (I Pet.5:7)  Ahh… such comfort for the the perennially anxious soul.  This is followed by a warning about the devil’s wiles and a call to remain steadfast in faith.  It’s an encouraging passage roughly equivalent to another favorite: Phil.4:6,7– “Be anxious for nothing but in everything, by prayer and supplication…”  I have long lived with these verses and tried to walk them out with varying degrees of success. 

But somehow I have always had a conscientious bent to worry, as if it were the only responsible thing to do. It’s become a joke at our house.  Jim’s predictable response to some petty trouble I present is: “I wouldn’t worry about it”.  And my predictable rejoinder is:  “That’s why I have to; somebody’s got to do it!” It’s just logical right?  If noone bears the weight of this care how will it be taken care of?!  The first time that interaction was actually voiced it dawned on me:  No wonder I am anxious; I think it’s the responsible thing to do.

But this week’s sermon covered all of I Peter 5.  And just preceding this imperative to cast my cares on God is the imperative to: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6 NIV) Could there be a connection between casting our cares and humbling ourselves?  The New English Translation says it this way: “And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand 7 by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.” 

I had not thought of my determination to cover all potential troubles with a good dose of worry as actually being prideful, and an affront to God’s loving and mighty ability to care for me.  He is opposed to the proud.  It is the humble who truly know His grace.

I think I have mentioned before that I have been asking God to teach me to pray.  First it seems He must disassemble my faulty understanding of what prayer entails. It is not a spiritualized form of worry where I air my concerns and then tuck them back away for safekeeping.  He asks me to give them up to Him, to yield them to His Mighty hand.  Why is that so hard?

I think it’s because I really would like certain sorts of outcomes.  I would like to think prayer is a guaranteed means of avoiding accidents, pain, tragedy, and all manner of disasters.  If I pray, about everything, God will be the genie that makes life smooth sailing. Of course that belief also makes prayer a joyless burden and an impossible necessity.  Who can ever pray enough?  Where is the place of rest in God’s assured care? 

Under this erroneous belief prayer morphs into a superstitious religious exercise aimed at getting God’s attention, approval and blessing. It has all the earmarks of religion—of us gaining favor with a disinterested God in order to bring about our own ‘salvation’ through our own works (and words!) And it ignores the reality of relationship known only in Christianity– that God indeed cares and loves and grants us His favor apart from any work on our part.  Our part is to repent of our independence and rest our case with this all-knowing, all-powerful and loving God who cares for us! 

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free existence.  Suffering is sure to come. (It is the context of I Peter). The older I get the more I see of it both in and out of the Church.  God does call us to pray (“Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you”– I Sam.12:23) but He does not guarantee our every heart’s desire.  Sin runs rampant on the planet and in our natures.  We will not necessarily be protected from the sins of others.  Abuse happens.  Drunk driving kills. Marriages fail.  People disappoint. Prodigals land in pig pens. No, prayer does not put life under our control.  We cannot even guarantee our own children’s safe passage through its perils.  God controls destinies. 

Did Joseph’s father not pray enough?  Did he think his prayers had failed when his favorite son was sold into slavery by jealous brothers? No, God had a bigger plan than even conniving Jacob could not foresee.  What was intended for evil God used to save the entire nation from starvation.

Did Moses’ mother not pray hard enough?  He was snatched from her as a toddler to be raised in a pagan palace.  This was his destiny under God’s mighty hand.

And what of Daniel and his handsome friends—young men in the prime of life, the cream of the crop in Judah—all seized by the enemy and conscripted to be trained in pagan-ness and serve a foreign power.  Was this part of their parents’ prayers for them?

This is the unsettling thing about prayer.  We are called to cast all our cares on God along with the deepest desires of our hearts, and then to leave them there with no guarantees that things will turn out how we think we’d prefer.  We are only assured that God cares for us, that He loves us and is mighty enough to cause everything to work together for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory (Rom.8:28). 

But as long as we view prayer as our means of preventing disaster and assuring success, it will be driven by fear more than a genuine desire to spend time knowing and being known by our faithful Creator.  Prayer and petition will become synonymous and we will miss out on the fellowship that prayer is meant to be and the relief that comes of truly casting our cares on our faithful Creator.

Maybe I don’t need to pray ‘better’ or ‘more’ so much as I need to humble myself under God’s mighty hand and rest there.  I don’t need another book on prayer or another sermon to propel me to it.  I need to realize my helpless but secure position as a dependent in God’s loving hand.  I need to trade my petition-oriented view of prayer for one that knows what it is to delight in the Lord and wait for Him to make my desires like His own. 

I read an article lately* which likened prayer to Mary’s pouring out costly perfume on Jesus’ head and feet. He called prayer: “poured out soul”, ‘gloriously impractical’ as seen by the world.  He acknowledged that prayer that seeks to worship and not to ‘get’ seems like a waste of time but to God it is precious.  This is the heart of prayer that I have missed in my haste to accomplish something and secure dividends with my prayers.

This is the fulfillment of the angel’s tidings at Jesus’ birth–“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Lk.2:14  We as believers are that people, forever in a favorable standing with God because of Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that. And from this position we are invited to commune with God in prayer. How can worry or pride exist here? 

O come, let us adore Him and cast all our cares and our every heart’s desire at His feet!

–LS

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps.37:4

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom 8:26-27 NIV

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Heb.7:25

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*”Rediscovering the value of prayer  in a high-tech world” by Robert Osborne, in Testimony Magazine, Nov/Dec 2013, p.9

Waiting on God

I bumped into a tired old paperback on a neglected couch-side shelf this week.  Its yellowing pages and faded cover picture a man kneeling at a stool, head in hands.  Its title is Waiting on God, by Andrew Murray.  Flipping it open I scanned a few lines and realized this was the book I needed though it wasn’t the one I had actually been looking for.

It is not merely a book on prayer but on its correlative: waiting.  I appreciate Murray’s distinguishing the two.  He says “there may be much praying with but very little waiting on God. In praying we are often occupied with ourselves, with our own needs, and our own efforts in the presentation of them.  [Yes! This is precisely my experience!; something’s missing] He goes on: In waiting upon God, the first thought is of the God upon whom we wait…”

Have you ever noticed how God inexplicably supplies just what you need when you need it? It was no ‘fluke’ that I happened upon this old book I had yet to read.  I couldn’t even remember at first where I had come by it.  But  I have been frustrated with my ‘prayer life’ for a long time.  It has been an ongoing plea: ‘Lord, teach me to pray.’  I see the need; there’s no want of opportunity to intercede!  And since communication is a backbone of relationship, obviously prayer  is basic to a  believer’s life. Why then the disparity between what I know to be true and the way I pray?

Could it be I have not learned the value of waiting on God?  Seems everywhere I turn of late I find a lesson on waiting.  I read  King Saul’s story this week—you remember the incident where his impetuousness lost him the kingdom?  His enemies were gathering on his borders in formidable numbers—“like the sand on the seashore”.  His own troops numbered mere hundreds and had neither sword nor spear to face 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen and troops! (I Sam.13) Desperately Saul waited for Samuel to come and officiate at the burnt offerings and peace offerings.  He needed God on his side!  Unfortunately he had the wrong idea about God.  He viewed the sacrificial system as a sort of good-luck charm—a means of gaining God’s favor and guaranteeing victory.  Do I sometimes view prayer this way?

And when Samuel didn’t show up punctually, Saul panicked and took charge of offering the sacrifice himself in clear violation of God’s standards. His desperation revealed a heart out of sync with God’s heart.

Did he think all depended on him to do something?

Did he not realize that ‘the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake’.  (I Sam.12:22)  His calling was to ‘fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all [his] heart’ (I Sam.12:24) but fear of his enemies outranked his fear of God. So he failed to wait to see how God would choose to act. His kingship was revoked.

When we face impossible situations and impending crises our hearts’ devotion becomes transparent.  Have you been there? I have.  Panic!   Unless we have learned to wait for God, and in these times to know His heart, we will be unprepared in crisis to trust Him and fear Him only…We will be tempted to run ahead and do something, anything! to save ourselves (or whoever needs saving!).

In panic we will tend to use prayer like a magic bullet—devoid of faith, driven by fear, offering words, demands, desperate pleas, but not trust.  Meanwhile God’s spirit whispers: “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength…” Is.30:15  And He waits to be gracious to us…He waits for us to wait for Him. Is.30:18

I’ve been struck lately by Jesus’ words:  Without me you can do nothing.  Nothing.  What is the use of worry, of scurry, of meticulous ordering of my days—all belying my supposed dependence on Him.  Unless I’m actively depending on Christ, abiding in Him, waiting on His direction I accomplish NOTHING.  It may look like a something but He says it is nothing.

The stuff of waiting revolves around two deep convictions:

1) a deep sense of personal helplessness to accomplish anything of eternal value

2) a perfect confidence that God is willing and able to do beyond all that I could ask or even think! (Murray, p.20-21)

Without these I will be good at ‘busy’ but not so great at ‘wait’.  Busy implies significance, being needed, being ‘somebody’.  It’s a classic way of conforming to the world.

Waiting implies dependence, being in need, and being ‘nothing without Him’.  It demonstrates I am not in control but He is.

I think that as we age this becomes more evident.  Our bodies no longer do our bidding as they once did.  We begin to need aids:  seeing aids, hearing aids, walking aids, sleeping aids… As the outer man fades the inner man is given opportunity to grow strong, to deepen its dependence on the God who has sustained us all along.  Before I lose all my faculties I would like to learn to wait on God.

As I began to read Andrew Murray’s book I came upon a card marking someone’s place.   It bore my Dad’s handwriting, as he struggled to untangle the spelling of a familiar word…he was likely in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s when he read this book.  (Yes, that’s where I’d gotten it. I’d tucked it in my suitcase on my last visit–a sampling from Dad’s bookcase.)  The card he used as a bookmark and ruler for underlining was an ad for woodworking patterns—for a tractor and a model T,  for a familiar looking loader and a dump truck.  Dad made these things.  Now he lives in a care home, incapacitated and unable to communicate, waiting on God to issue his call home. He can do little else.

Dare I?

–LS

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a god besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” Is.64:4

[the verse by my kitchen sink]:
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly…but I, by your great love, can come into your house, in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.” Ps.5:3,7

[my bookmark]:
“My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God.”
  Ps.62:5-7

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If you have a few minutes more, consider this profound foreword to Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting on God:

Wait Thou Only Upon God

“Wait only upon God”; my soul, be still,
And let thy God unfold His perfect will,
Thou fain would’st follow Him throughout this year,
Thou fain with listening heart his voice would’st hear,
Thou fain would’st be a passive instrument
Possessed by God, and ever Spirit-sent
Upon His service sweet—then be thou still,
For only thus can He in thee fulfill
His heart’s desire. Oh, hinder not His hand
From fashioning the vessel He hath planned.
“Be silent unto God,” and thou shalt know
The quiet, holy calm He doth bestow
On those who wait on him; so shalt thou bear
His presence, and His life and light e’en where
The night is darkest, and thine earthly days
Shall show His love, and sound His glorious praise.
And He will work with hand unfettered, free,
His high and holy purposes through thee.
First on thee must that hand of power be turned,
Till in His love’s strong fire thy dross is burned,
And thou come forth a vessel for thy Lord,
So frail and empty, yet, since He hath poured
Into thine emptiness His life, His love,
Henceforth through thee the power of God shall move
And He will work for thee. Stand still and see
The victories thy God will gain for thee;
So silent, yet so irresistible,
Thy God shall do the thing impossible.

Oh, question not henceforth what thou canst do;
Thou canst do nought. But He will carry through
The work where human energy had failed
Where all thy best endeavors had availed
Thee nothing.
Then, my soul, wait and be still;
Thy God shall work for thee his perfect will.
Thou wilt take no less, His best shall be
Thy portion now and through eternity.

–Freda Hanbury

in Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

From Fisherman to Follower

P1130294Home now from Texas, reflecting on our time there (visiting Rachel and attending a conference at Capernwray’s His Hill school), collecting my thoughts…catching my breath for the “Christmas season”.

It will be a very different one this year.  The familiar tunes playing in my ear this afternoon have a melancholy pull—reminding me of Christmases past when so much of what I did to ‘get ready’ for Christmas was about the kids under my roof…This year everyone will not be coming home for the holidays.  I will need sustaining joy not bound to circumstances!

Isn’t this the Christmas story in a nutshell?

I bring you good tidings of great joy!  Unto you is born this day a Saviour— Christ the Lord—Jesus, my joy.*  The life I now live I live by faith in this One who died for me so that He could live in me… This was the theme of the conference really—Jesus, our life—who calls us to Himself so that He can be our life.

We were reminded that in Jesus we have everything needed to live the Christian life.  The call to follow Him is a call to that will ultimately transform us into His likeness as He lives out His life in us. Through the life of Peter we looked at the process by which this transformation takes place.  How did Peter get from being a mere fisherman to being a committed follower of Christ–one of those who turned the world upside down wherever he went?

The first message in the series** was taken from the calling of the first disciples in Luke 5.  We looked at six stages that characterize hearing God’s call to  transformation.

It begins with being in the place of wanting to hear it.  When the temporary satisfaction that distractions give is removed our ears are opened to hear what Jesus is saying. This is a good place to be.  The crowd was ‘pressing in on him to hear the word of God…’

Secondly, we will hear the call of God when we realize it’s about Him and not primarily about what He does for me.  “There is a profound danger of being more impressed with the activity of God than the person of Christ.”  God calls us not primarily for what we will do or what He will do through us, but in order that we might know Him.  Our calling is first and foremost to know Him.

Next, Jesus got right into Peter’s boat. If we are to be transformed by God’s call on our lives we must let him enter into our world, our very identity, all that matters most to us.  It is here that we most need Him to make Himself at home.

At this point, our own bankruptcy becomes evident:  “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” (Lk.5:5)  We must come to the realization that without Him we can do nothing of consequence.  And we must submit ourselves to His direction, not our own best notions.

At this point in Peter’s story, he obediently lets down his nets into deep water and a net-breaking catch results.  Peter is overwhelmed by Christ’s greatness and broken before Him.  “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” is Peter’s response.  He is convicted of his own unworthiness to have Jesus in his boat.  Until we come to the point of seeing how good we are NOT, we will not know the dependence on God necessary to transformation.  Not until we take our hands off ourselves and our abilities and put all we are and have at God’s disposal will we know the transformation to which we are called.

And finally, as the boats come to land, Peter and his fishing partners, James and John, leave everything to follow Jesus.  The call of God to transformation is more than the passion of a moment of revelation.  It requires a day-by day commitment to put all we are at His disposal and follow Him wherever He leads us.  These fishermen have turned their backs on all they claimed their own.  They have become followers of Christ and are being transformed into fishers of men. They will never be the same.  They have responded to God’s call.  This is the path of great joy!

Unto us is born this day a Savior—He is Christ the Lord!  Let us be among those who leave our nets and follow this One who came to be our very life!

–LS

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:3-4 KJV)

May I add this link to a whimsical, fresh and ultimately exhilarating rendition of what the angels announced.  It’s The Piano Guys latest.  Enjoy!(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n543eKIdbUI&feature=em-subs_digest)

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*And speaking of Jesus, the Joy of the world, I discovered Jerry Benjamin this morning in his excellent message entitled: “Christ is Our Joy”.   I commend  it to you no matter what your circumstances this advent season ( ;

**These notes are taken from Peter Thomas’ first message in the series: “From Fisherman to Follower”, presented at the His Hill Thanksgiving Conference, 2013 in Comfort, TX.  P1130295

Peter is the son of Ian Thomas, founder of Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers.  Through Bible schools and conference centers worldwide its mission is to:  “proclaim the transforming presence of Jesus Christ through Biblical teaching and practical training, equipping men and women for service in His Church worldwide.”

Its various schools worldwide (one of which is His Hill, where our daughter is attending this year!) provide practical Christian education to develop personal spiritual growth, prepare people for an effective church life, and teach a working knowledge of the Bible.