To Whom Shall We Go But Thee (a hymn)

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.”                      Proverbs 14:10

Whom shall I seek when the lone silence speaks
Thoughts that my heart must defy.
I shall call on Him.
I shall wait on Him
Who comes with truthful reply.

To whom shall we go but Thee?
To whom shall we go but Thee?

Who can console my grief laden soul
In the helplessness of loss?
I shall draw near Him,
The meek heart of Him.
My strength is His love–the cross.

To whom shall we go but Thee?
To whom shall we go but Thee?

And what shall I do when the path grows dim?
Where shall I look for light?
I shall search for Him.
I shall walk with Him
Before the descent of night.

Lord, to whom shall we go but Thee?
You have the words of life.
And we have believed
And have come to know
That You are the Christ,
The Son of the living God.
You are the Christ.

                                                                         Meredith Cockroft

 

 

 

The Cross of Christ Part 2 — A Suffering Savior for a Suffering World

Chaim Potok, conservative Jewish rabbi and Jewish scholar, wrote a beautiful novel called My Name is Asher Lev.  It is about a young Jewish boy who is an artist and whose Hassidic Jewish parents, especially his father, see his art as against the Torah, something for the goyim and unreligious Jews.  His parents are deeply involved in a dangerous movement to get their Hassidic Jewish brethren out of Russia where they are being persecuted and into the freedom and safety of western Europe and the United States.  His mother’s brother is killed in these efforts.  And Asher observes her suffering over his death as well as her worrying about his father’s frequent trips.  He also sees her suffer as she stands between her son and her husband in the conflict over his drawings and paintings. His mother takes him secretly to art museums where he sees many paintings by the old masters of the crucifixion. Intrigued by them, he asks his mother about them.  She says they are of Jesus, the God of the goyim, but we cannot speak of Him.  As Asher grows to manhood he continues with his art and becomes a successful artist. For the first exhibition of his paintings he depicts his mother’s suffering by painting her on a crucifix.

He thinks about the painting and the hurt it will cause his parents:  “For all the pain you suffered, my mama.  For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama.  For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you.  For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats.  For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend.  For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting–an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.”

What a poignant and powerful statement on the symbolism and reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who endured unspeakable suffering for the sins of the world!

A Music Link:  What Wondrous Love Is This by Steve Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3uxCOwrcow

The Cross of Christ Part 1 — The Foolishness of the Cross

In the March 27, 2000 issue of Newsweek, Kenneth L. Woodward, long time religion editor for Newsweek, writes in his article The Other Jesus, “Clearly the cross is what separates the Christ of Christianity from every other Jesus. In Judaism, there is no precedent for a Messiah who dies, much less as a criminal as Jesus did. In Islam, the story of Jesus’ death is rejected as an affront to Allah himself. Hindus can accept only a Jesus who passes into peaceful samadhi, a yogi who escapes the degradation of death. ‘The figure of the crucified Christ,’ says Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘is a painful image to me. It does not contain joy or peace and this does not do justice to Jesus.’  Indeed the cross has become a stumbling block to many religions today.”

But this is nothing new.  Since Jesus’ birth, He has always been a stumbling block.  For God purposed to send a Jesus who was not clever, strong, rich or powerful in the eyes of the world, but rather sent to us a Jesus who was meek, humble, and devoid of worldly position and power.  And certainly He was seen as weak and powerless and despised by men in His death.  They didn’t understand His compliance to the will of God. God sent us a Jesus who could empathize with the weakness, suffering, rejection, persecution, poverty and injustice of humankind.  He sent a Jesus who was approachable, kind and in whom we could find not worldly acceptance and power but rather acceptance by our Creator God and peace and rest for our weary souls.

Isaiah spoke to this in his prophecy (chapter 53),

2″He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,…
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions
he was crushed for our iniquities
the punishment that brought us peace was on him…”

Yes, the cross of Christ was purposefully designed by God, in His wisdom and foreknowledge, to be a stumbling block and an offence to the unbelieving, unconverted world.  Paul wrote almost 2000 years ago to the Corinthians (chapter 1) the following:

“18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the (gospel) message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

A Music Link:  When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Selah  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzxRovCHTUs

 

 

Christ, the King–Christmas 2016

The word Christ has been so thoroughly associated with the name of Jesus that one might think it was His surname.   Carolyn Jones.  Ken Smith.  Jesus Christ.   But, of course, it isn’t.  The word Christ comes from the Greek word in the New Testament, Christos which was translated from the Hebrew word in the Old Testament, Messiah.  Both the Greek and the Hebrew are terms that refer to one who is anointed or set apart by God for a special task.  It might be a prophet or a priest or a king.  The N.T. refers to Jesus as God’s anointed.  He is God’s final word to the world and His last prophet.  He is our high priest who made the final and only acceptable sacrifice to God for our sins.  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the King to whom God has given all power and authority and who will reign forever over the Kingdom of God.

At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus, but our Christmas carols rarely sing of the birth of Jesus without also referring to Him as King.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King.  Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.  O come all ye faithful..come and behold Him born the King..

And often they tell of His birth and move our vision on through to His glorious kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The birth of Jesus was only the beginning of the revelation of God’s Son to the world.  In fact, when Jesus was born and even through His years of growing in wisdom and stature, of those who knew Mary and Joseph or personally knew Jesus, very few recognized Him as anything more than the son of Mary or the son of Joseph, the carpenter or Jesus of Nazareth.

But to a few, glimpses of his true identity, as God’s anointed one, were revealed.  First to Mary—He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, the angel said.  After Mary conceived, she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. And a glimpse of Jesus’ identity was revealed to Elizabeth and to John the Baptist while he was still in his mother’s womb—for when the sound of Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, the baby leaped in her womb for joy.

And of course, it was revealed to Joseph and Zacharias and to the shepherds and the wise men who came seeking the one who was born King of the Jews.  And it was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the old man, Simeon, that he would not see death until he beheld the Lord’s Christ.  And it was revealed to Anna, the prophetess.

After Jesus was baptized and He began His earthly ministry of teaching and healing, many, many more saw glimpses of His glory, power, and majesty.  His disciples, the women who followed Him, many who received healing.  Even though, He came in humility and gentleness, glimpses of what was to come were present and visible to some.

It was even revealed to some who did not receive the news with gladness and joy, like Herod, who at the news of the birth of the King of the Jews was filled with envy and rage and, in an effort to kill God’s Christ, killed every Jewish boy under the age of two.  Satan knew who Jesus was.  The demons knew who Jesus was.  The Pharisees knew who Jesus was which is why they feared Him and plotted throughout his years of ministry to kill Him.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, the people laid their garments and palm branches on the ground for His passage and shouted with great joy, Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  And less than a week later, many of those same people at His trial cried, Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  The N. T. tells us that at the moment of His crucifixion and death the kings of the earth set themselves in array and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Anointed.  But in Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it.

Jesus did not stay dead and did not remain in the tomb for the work that He was set apart for is not complete.  He rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds and hundreds of people in a new and glorified body fit for a new and glorious kingdom which is not of this sinful world.

After 40 days He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God, on His eternal throne.  Peter declared in his sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.

And when the children of God receive our incorruptible bodies like unto
His own glorious body, the Bible says that the whole of creation
(the heavens and the earth) will be set free from its bondage to corruption.
And that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.  

In the words of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah:

The Lord God omnipotent reigneth
The kingdoms of this world
Is become the kingdoms of our Lord
And of his Christ
And He shall reign forever and forever.

A Music Link:  “In the First Light”—Acapella Project by Glad  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOob4CRW8m0

 

Last Prayers

I’ve mentioned before that I took care of my mother in our home in her last years.  She was in the last stages of diabetes the whole time.  She was for most of her life an extremely fearful person, but in her last years she showed remarkable courage in her fight with diabetes and the enemy—death.

During those fourteen years, I watched as she lost her left leg, then her vision, then her kidneys, then her right leg, then her life.  When she went into the hospital the last time, she was facing the loss of her only remaining leg.  The morning before the surgery, my aunt had come in from Louisiana, my pastor and his wife were there, and several friends of mine who helped me with Mother’s care during the last few years.  We surrounded her bed, held hands and prayed and sang hymns until they came for her for the surgery.

She came through the surgery very well except for some reason, which I can no longer remember, she could not speak.  It was as though she had had a stroke, but she had not.  The doctor said it was something that would definitely pass.

Several days after her surgery, I was sitting with her and she was having dialysis.  I spoke with the doctor about options for extended care facilities.  I fed her supper.  Then before I left, I asked her if she would like to pray the Apostles’ Creed together.  She nodded and tried to speak, but couldn’t.   I knelt down by her bed, rested my arms and head on her abdomen and began to recite the creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.”

As I prayed, I heard faint murmurings from her lips and knew she was praying with me.  Then as I neared the end of the prayer, I noticed a strong warmth coming from her body.  Within what seemed like minutes she was bright red and burning with severe high fever.  I called for the nurse who immediately called for the doctors.  They quickly whisked her off to pack her in ice.  It was the last I saw Mother alive.  She died several hours later of heart failure.

I didn’t know that she would die that night.  I have often since thought what a beautiful last prayer to pray—the ultimate affirmation of what we believe as Christians.  How fitting to affirm our faith in our triune God before we pass into His presence.

A Music Link:  There is a Fountain by Selah  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMcG0JclK-A

Advent

This time of the Christian year is called Advent from the latin word adventus meaning coming or appearing, specifically, it means the coming or appearing of a notable person or event.  At this time of year we relive through our hymns and the scriptures the excitement, the hope, and the expectations of the time and events leading up to the First Advent or coming of Jesus Christ to the world.  In this His First Coming he came to us in humiliation or condescension, leaving his exalted state in heaven to become one of us.  Philippians chapter 2 tells us that “although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The first great event in the unfolding of the First Advent or coming of Jesus to the earth was the birth of John the Baptist, six months before the birth of Jesus, a great miracle and supernatural event in its own right, as Elizabeth, his mother, was far beyond natural child bearing years.  Elizabeth was filled with expectancy for the birth of her first child.  With the birth of John the Baptist and his preaching in the wilderness of Judea preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah to the world, the Jewish world was expectant—expectant with the hope of their soon deliverance.  And someone else was expectant.  A young virtuous virgin.

In his book, The Healing, G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Extremes have characterized the treatment which the mother of our Lord has received at the hands of the Christian Church.  On the one hand she has been worshipped, and on the other, largely neglected.  In the rebound of Protestantism from Mariolotry we have been terribly in danger of relegating the Virgin Mother to a position far inferior to that which she really holds  in the counsel and purpose and power of God, and in the work of God in human history and human life.”

“The Virgin Mother takes her place in the focal point of all the histories.  Through no choice, no conceit or forwardness of her own, but by the grace of God and by an inherent fitness she becomes a connecting link between earth and heaven.”

Music Link:  Mary Did You Know by Clay Aiken  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_srtfgf2gqQ

The fact that Jesus was born to a young, virtuous virgin maiden, begins the story of the First Advent of Christ in just the right way, appropriate to Jesus’ whole life and calling and Mary’s life and calling.  His birth and life was not only supernatural but very human.  Mary was a humble and obedient young woman who accepted without equivocation the calling that God placed on her life through the words of His messenger.  And so began what for her would be an arduous journey (which she without a doubt did not see in advance.)  (As I go through this narrative, perhaps you will see parallels with your own life.)

Mary was quite different from any other woman who ever lived. She had a unique and very high calling.  She was the fullfilment of the prophesy long ago in Genesis.  She was the woman  whose seed, Jesus, would crush the head of Satan. She would not only receive the indwelling Christ and the Holy Spirit, as all believers do, but she actually, physically held within her womb the infant Son of God conceived of her very own seed.  Imagine how protective she must have been as she carried Him those nine months within her and then made the journey to Bethlehem where she would give birth to Him with no one to help her but Joseph. The condescension of Jesus begins when He is born in a stable and wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger.  Imagine the great joy and excitement Mary must have felt at the appearance of the shepherds who came to worship her baby, the fear she must have felt when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to save their baby’s life, and the wonder of the wise men—kings bringing expensive gifts of royalty to her young child.  Imagine the faith she had and how her faith must have grown as she watched the hand of God at work in her firstborn.

I love the way the video portrays the life of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.  The happiness and rejoicing Mary and Joseph felt as they raised their very special boy.  The questionings of imperfect understanding Mary felt when Simon, the prophet, told her when she took Jesus at eight days old to the temple that a sword would pierce her soul.  Imagine the pangs of rejection she may have felt when she found Him at twelve preaching in the synagogue, and He told her that He must be about His Father’s work.  At that time Mary must have realized that she had to already begin to “cut the apron strings” and allow Him to follow the path that God had for Him, which was certainly not the path that she would have chosen for Him.

She must have been so proud of Him to see all the good He did, the miracles He worked, the love He had for people, the tireless wandering around Palestine preaching and teaching wonderful things about the Kingdom of God and about Himself.  She no doubt feared for Him when she began to see His rejection by the people and the ceaseless ridicule and entrapment by the Pharisees.  On one occasion they compared themselves to Jesus.  Feeling morally superior, they said, “We were not born of fornication were we?”  An accusation that probably followed Mary and Jesus all their lives.

I love the way the video jumps back and forth from the baby, the child and the adult Jesus back to the child and the baby and then the adult again.  A few years ago, my son went through a very devastating time.  All I could do was pray, encourage him and watch him suffer.  For God was at work in His life.  He was thirty-six years old at the time but as I watched with love, he was my sweet baby.  He was my toddler, my little nine year old boy, my teenager, my college student, and my grown son.  His whole life and my love for him flashed before me as one moment in time.  Imagine how Mary felt when she witnessed the trial of her Son, His extreme cruel treatment and finally His nailing to the cross.  As she watched Him hanging on the cross, I believe she saw her baby, her little boy who brought her such joy, her adolescent son, teaching in the temple, and her grown son, who had done no wrong in His life,hanging on the cross dying,. How tender her heart must have been while, as He hung dying, He remembered to make arrangements for her care during her earthly life.  Perhaps she held Him in her arms when they took Him down from the cross.  And in that moment His whole life flashed before her again from infancy to adulthood—all the things she had held in her heart and pondered as she watched Him grow to maturity.  The first advent of Jesus is a fully human story as well as a supernatural one.  It did not end with the tragedy of the cross but in triumphant victory when God raised Jesus from the dead and He ascended on high to the throne of David.

And the hope and expectancy does not end there.  As you participate in all the joy, excitement and expectation of the Christmas season, are you filled with expectancy in a special way?  Perhaps you are filled with the expectancy of long awaited answer to prayer?  Or the expectancy of perhaps seeing a loved one come to Jesus?  Or perhaps it will trigger in you a yearning for the Second Coming of Christ when He will wipe every tear from our eyes and all sorrow will cease for there will be no more death.  All creation will be set free from its bondage and “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise again!”  Do you have a yearning to see Him, who died for you, face to face?  We cannot think of the first advent of Christ into the world without thinking of the Second for they are not two unrelated separate events, but rather are one continuous movement of the redemptive work of God in human history.

Music Link:  The Yearning by Craig Courtney  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPW3cVJ12Yw

The Yearning

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning together
In the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation
But we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit
Groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies.”
Romans 8:22-23

THE YEARNING

There is a yearning in hearts weighed down by ancient grief and centuries of sorrow.

There is a yearning in hearts that in the darkness hide and in the shades of death abide, a yearning for tomorrow.

There is a yearning, a yearning for the promised One, the Firstborn of creation.

There is a yearning for the Lord who visited His own, and by His death for sin atoned, to bring to us salvation.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel within our hearts, the yearning.

There is a yearning that fills the hearts of those who wait the day of His appearing.

There is a yearning when all our sorrows are erased and we shall see the One who placed within our hearts the yearning.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel within our hearts, the yearning.

by Susan Bentall Boersma

“Surely, I come quickly.
Amen!
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Revelation 22:20

Music Link:  The Yearning by Craig Courtney  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPW3cVJ12Yw

Remembrances and Gratitude

Deuteronomy 16:3  “…remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.”

I remember well the day, in fact, the moment I was saved and God brought me out of Egypt into the promised land.

I remember that the Lord brought my husband along in his relationship with Christ at the same time that we might grow in Him together.

I remember that He brought my children into a saving relationship with Him and has kept them securely in Him and has worked in them impeccable Christian character now that they are adults.

I remember that He saved my mother by His grace and gave her fourteen years of peace, grace and mercy in Him before she went to be with Him forever.

I remember the blessings of having my husband’s dad with dementia live with us as well as my mother and the common purpose we had as a family all the years the children were growing up.

I remember when each one of my precious grandchildren was born and watch and pray as they move closer and closer to Jesus.

I remember the sweet fellowship He gave us with my sister and her family through Jesus

I remember all the joys of serving Him and His Body, the church, and the thrill of leading children and adults alike to a saving knowledge of Him.

And I remember every trial and every innumerable answer to prayer and the support and love of God’s people through it all.

For these and so much more I am eternally grateful!!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”

Music Link:  My Tribute by Andrae Crouch  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF0TcbY_Z8o

First Prayers

It has been often observed that new Christians have a fervent zeal for God.  They may know very little scripture, but what they lack in knowledge they make up for in their zeal and love for Jesus, his Word and the gospel.  Such was I.  When I was first saved by God’s grace, I was not only immediately aware that I had been “transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His glorious light,” but I was also aware of those I cared about who were still in darkness as I had been.  I was also keenly aware of my sins—the whole lifetime of them.

After profuse prayers of gratitude, the Holy Spirit moved me to pray for my mother.  My relationship with my mother was always a difficult one.  In some ways, it was a love-hate relationship and one that caused me tremendous guilt.  One of my first prayers was that God would save my mother.  My burden for her soul was so great, as Paul‘s was concerning Israel, that I prayed that I might be “accursed” if only she could be saved.  My second prayer was that God would help me to love my mother as I should.  Of course, as is so often the case, God puts a desire in our hearts, but doesn’t reveal right away what it will take on our part to have those desires fulfilled or those prayers answered.

I remember well the day I phoned my mother, crying, and asked her to forgive me for not being the kind of daughter I should have been.  I did not know how she would react or what she would say, I only knew that I had to do that.  My mother became very disturbed!  She began to cry hysterically and said, “What is this church you’re going to?!  (After all, it was non-denominational.)  “It’s some kind of cult!”  Well, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for that!  I tried to calm her and reassure her that I only wanted to be right with God, but to no avail.  Some months later, Mother came to visit.  I took her to church with me and to ladies Bible study.  She was skeptical and felt that she was being told that her religion was wrong.  But when I put her on the bus to go home, she said to me.  “I can see that you are different.  That you are at peace.  I wish I could find that kind of peace.”  I sent her home with the radio station and time of Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s broadcast “Thru the Bible” and told her he was an excellent Bible teacher and that I thought she would enjoy him.  She did begin to listen to Dr. Mc Gee on the radio.

About a year and a half after I prayed those prayers, I got a call from my aunt telling me that they had taken my mother to the hospital with an infected foot and that her sugar levels were extremely high from her diabetes and that I should come.  It was the night before Thanksgiving.  I left about 10:00 p.m. for New Orleans, drove all night and arrived at Charity Hospital in New Orleans about 6:00 a.m. in the morning.  Mother’s sugar levels were not coming down, the antibiotics were not working for the infection and the doctors were talking about amputation.   I sat with mother all day as she clung with desperation and terrifying fear to her rosary.  I knew that I had to speak if she was ever to know the freedom and peace that only Christ can give.  With trepidation I said to her, “Mother, Mary cannot help you.  And Mary cannot save you.  Only Jesus can do that.”  She said, “Are you telling me that my religion is wrong?”  I said, “No, I’m telling you that only Jesus can help you and only Jesus can save you.”  I told her, “Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul. ” She put the rosary down and she prayed with me to ask Jesus to forgive her sins and save her. I assured her that Jesus said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  I said, “He will go with you through this, Mother, and He will give you courage.”  That night my mother at the age of 63 began a personal relationship with Jesus.

This toe infection turned into a leg amputation and the beginning of all the horrors associated with the last stages of untreated diabetes.  Mother came to live with us as she could not take care of herself.  She required 24-hour care.  I cared for her for fourteen years.  I never would have thought that I could ever live with my mother again.  But such was God’s way of building within me a love for her—by serving her.  I struggled throughout those years with my emotions, but love is indeed more than an emotion.  It is actions.  I shall always be grateful for the relationship God brought about during those years.  It did not come about easily.  It came through great sacrifice by me and my whole family.  Mother showed amazing courage and faith in the face of great suffering throughout those years.  A couple of years before her death, my somewhat shy mother sang a solo, a song of tribute to her savior and friend, at a seniors’ dinner at our church.  She was legally blind and could not read a hymnal, but she sat in her wheelchair and sang all the verses of “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”  Those were years I will treasure forever and a night I will never forget.

A Music Link:  No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus by Jimmy Swaggart  http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=no+one+ever+cared+for+me+like+jesus+you+tube&&view=detail&mid=A3941DFE6E655D7BFA83A3941DFE6E655D7BFA83&FORM=VRDGAR

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional is without a doubt the most beautiful, inspiring, intellectually and spiritually uplifting devotional I have read in my life time. I am beginning it for the second time. I have just installed it on my Kindle so that I can read it and meditate on it before I get out of bed in the morning and as the last thing I do before I sleep. I previously had it sent to my work computer from biblegateway.com and read both morning and evening some time during the day at work.

Spurgeon was primarily a powerful preacher, not a theologian. He preached his first sermon when he was just 19 years old.  I have read that he preached to over ten million people in his lifetime. He preached to thousands at a time ten times a week in his church and to small intimate groups of various denominations and nationalities in the sitting room of his home in Menton, France on the French Riviera where he would go to recuperate from rheumatism, gout and Bright’s disease. I have read that Spurgeon also suffered from depression and some degree of mental illness all his life. This is encouraging indeed to all of us who also have suffered from depression and other emotional or mental distractions or physical disease or disability while trying to serve God. It is a testimony to God’s strength in weakness. It is a testimony to God’s unearned abundant grace. It is a testimony to the power of God through faith and through His Word to ground, stabilize, strengthen and keep those who depend upon Him.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

spurgeon1 (Small)spurgeon2 (Small)

Born 19 June 1834
Kelvedon, Essex, England
Died 31 January 1892 (aged 57)
Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Nationality British
Occupation Pastor, author

Religion Christian (Reformed Baptist) (Particular Baptist)
Spouse(s) Susannah Spurgeon (née Thompson)
(8 January 1856)
Children Charles and Thomas Spurgeon (twins) (1856)
Parents John and Eliza Spurgeon

spurgeon3 (Small)

For a brief and awesome biography see:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Spurgeon

For a reading source of his writings and a more extensive biography see:  http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/wg.htm

Saving Grace

One glorious day the God of all Creation intervened in my life and saved me by His grace!

I was raised a Roman Catholic.  I went to Catholic school all my life from kindergarten to twelfth grade.  I was baptized when just a few weeks old, made my first communion when I was 7 and was confirmed in the faith when I was 12.  After I started school, I went to mass every morning except Saturday.  And on Saturdays, from about age 10 when I was old enough to go on my own, I went to confession, did my penance and knelt and visited with God privately for a few minutes before going home.  I received communion at almost every mass (although, I must confess I was enticed by what I thought were the greatest breakfasts in the world—hot chocolate and toast dripping with margarine or milk and Picou’s crunchy glazed donuts, two to a bag, which the school served every school day after mass for those who received communion). This, of course, was because we had to fast after midnight before receiving the body and blood of Christ. I attended mass on all holy days, observed special days of devotion, and Lenten fasts and Friday abstinences.

As you can see, I was a practicing Catholic—a “good Catholic”.  In addition, I tried my best not to sin and to care for others around me in various needs, especially family.  As time went on these “good works” became increasingly more difficult to perform.  My family problems increased after the death of my father when I was 16, just before my senior year in high school, and continued to get worse.  They became so overwhelming to me that after college I moved from my home to a different city to escape the constant pressure, guilt and failure that I felt.  I tried so hard to do those things which I knew God required of me and not to do those things which were displeasing to Him, but all the while I knew I could not meet His high expectations.  For God is perfect and I soon realized I was not and never would be.  At best I would burn in purgatory for a set period of time until my sins of commission and omission were atoned for and at worst I would burn in hell for all eternity.

My solution was the same as many people’s—ignore the guilt and failure and make a god and a theology of my own, one that was more compassionate than the one in which I was raised.  One in which everyone went to heaven when they died except the exceedingly sinful, criminal and perverse.  In my theology it didn’t matter what religion you were—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever…as long as you were a good one, that is a good Hindu or a good Muslim.  In other words, a good God provided many ways to Him and if you tried real hard to be a good whatever you were, that was pleasing to God and at the end of your life you would be accepted by Him.  So I just tried to be the best Christian I could and God would be proud of me and my mind and heart would be at peace.  And He would have as much compassion and pity on all my weaknesses and sinfulness as I had for myself.  (See my post “Job and I”)

One day the God of all creation sent His messenger to me.   A new friend and neighbor of mine invited me to a Bible study in the book of Romans at her little small town Bible church.  (By this time I was married with 2 children ages 4 and 5.)  With everything in me I did not want to say yes.  I did not, did not want to go to a Bible study with ladies I was sure were religious fanatics.  But my friend was lovely, gracious, and hospitable and I could not bring myself to tell her no.  So I grudgingly went with her.

I found myself arguing in my mind with every word the teacher said.  He talked about self-righteousness verses the gift-righteousness of Christ, how all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that God says that there is none righteous, not one.  He talked about the fact that the earned and just punishment of our sins is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ; he talked about salvation by grace verses salvation by works and that there is but one way to God and that is through His only Son, the God/Man, Christ Jesus.  And, in my mind, I argued with every point and knew that my theology was right.

Then one glorious day the God of all creation intervened in my life and saved me by His grace!  My children were in school.  I was listening to music and cleaning my house when a bible verse that the bible teacher repeated over and over again just popped into my mind.  “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast in His presence.”  And in that instant, I immediately knew that the Bible teacher—the Bible, in fact—was right and I was wrong, so wrong, for so many years.  In that instant, I dropped to my knees at my coffee table, dusting rag in hand, and wept and wept and wept over the goodness of God.  For the first time in my life I knew experientially that God was truly good.  To have such an intimate encounter with God was more than I could bear.  I wept off and on for a year as God in the goodness of His grace and mercy forgave all my sins, great and small, past, present and future, cleansed me, loved me and brought healing to my soul through prayer, His Word, and the kindness of His body, the church.

“It is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast in His presence.”  Ephesians 2:8

“For if (salvation) is by grace, then it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is not longer grace.” Romans 11:6

“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from keeping the law (works), then Christ is dead in vain.”  Galatians 2:21

Music Link:  How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Selah  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKDujmtyAVk

The Harvest Moon

“O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!”

“O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8

This Sunday, September 27 the harvest moon will appear in the sky. It is sometimes called the blood moon. The harvest moon is the first full moon following the autumnal equinox, September 23. This month the full moon will be closest to the earth than any other time of the month making it the largest in appearance and giving it the title supermoon.

If you are fortunate enough to live near the coast, the harvest moon will provide the largest variance in the tides—the high tides being extremely high and the low tides being extremely low.

If you have never seen a harvest moon, then by all means set your calendar to go out and watch it crest on the horizon of the eastern sky. If you have seen a harvest moon, be sure not to miss this supermoon this month. It will appear low in the sky at sunset and be an enormous orange-red ball. The closer to the horizon it is the larger and more colorful it will be.
This year the harvest moon will coincide with a lunar eclipse of the sun making it an especially fantastic astronomical event. And all this can be seen with the naked eye—without any instrument!

Check the internet to see when it will crest in your time zone and to see what the visibility will be in your “neck of the woods”.

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/when-is-lunar-eclipse-supermoon-harvest-blood-moon-viewing-conditions-map-forecast/525384

bloodmoon

Job and I

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

In my readings today I am reminded of a precious and powerful moment with God in my life shortly before I was saved or had an assurance through the Spirit that I was a child of God. It was a moment of deep conviction. A neighbor had given me a Good News Bible. I had many times in my life longed to read the Bible and could never seem to read very far before I felt completely defeated by the gap between my desire and my ability to understand. Of course, I had always tried to read my little fine print, thin paged, white, leather-bound personal Bible, the only one I had, which, for a poor reader like me, was defeating almost before I began. But now I had in my hands a used paperback, modern English version with reasonably sized print and heavier pages that was instantly more inviting. And being moved by the Spirit, I opened it and began to read the first full book of the Bible I had ever read—the Book of Job—read in one sitting. I found that I could not put it down until I finished it.
As I read I became engrossed in Job’s trials and tribulations. Having had all my life an unhealthy awareness of all my own trials and tribulations and those of my whole family, I could identify with Job and commiserate with him in his. When he questioned God. When he doubted God. When he sat in despair and wondered where God was and why He did not show Himself or answer, I was at one with him. This was a God I could identify with, a God that you desperately sought, but who was illusive, distant, unreachable, unpleasable, and who did not come when called. Yet, somewhere deep in my heart, like Job, though perhaps not as intimately as he or unwavering as he, I believed that “my redeemer liveth.”
Then, in God’s time, God spoke to Job and He spoke to me and I shall never forget that moment in time.

“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?,” God said.
“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”

When I surrounded myself with my own strength to overcome adversity, or my willingness to suffer unjustly when I could not overcome, or my own good works, which I thought were many, and my own so reverent acts of humility in worship, I considered myself quite holy relative to others I knew. Such is the curse of a religion of works.

But now, I was, suddenly and instantly, deeply ashamed of the pure vanity of my heart. Of the fact that God was God and I was not.

But now, like Job, I abhorred myself and I repented in dust and ashes. Job and I replied,

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”

I stood in the presence of the God of all creation, Himself, in the presence of true holiness and omnipotent power. And I was little. I was petty. I was self-absorbed. And I was exceedingly sinful and ashamed.

It is alarming to suddenly and unwittingly find yourself standing naked before almighty God, with the cloak of your own self-righteousness removed, like Adam and Eve in the garden. Standing before Him there is no place for the “boastful pride of life,” feeling that God owes you something simply by virtue of the fact that you are.

God in essence said to Job, When you can do what I have done; when you are my equal—“then I will confess to you that your own right hand can save you.”

I had been all my life aware, like the Apostle Paul, that the good that I wished to do, I did not. And that evil was ever present with me. My only hope was that my good works would be pleasing enough to God to merit His favor. And I thought that in the end they would be. It would be some months later when I could say with Paul, “but thanks be to God who gives me the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” It would be a few months more before God would reach down in love to me through His Word and say, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” On that day, I would fall to my knees before Him and weep for a long time over the goodness of God. On that day, I would know His love. On that day I would know I was His forever.

But I praise God for that first vivid, very personal, encounter with Him through His Word. For without it, I would not have known the depth of my own depravity, I would not have known the truly unreachable holiness and majesty of God. I would not have known that “apart from Him I can do nothing.” That moment was a precious gift, a gift of God’s grace. It was the preparation of the soil to receive the seed of the Word of God with gladness. It was the impetus of my love affair with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through His Word for the rest of my life—although, regretfully, not with the perfect faithfulness it might be and should be.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

“Wonderful grace of Jesus
Greater than all my sin
How shall my tongue describe it?
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free
The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.”

“All sufficient grace for even me!”

How shall I describe it? Where shall its praise begin? Grace is one of the most beautiful words and powerful concepts in the Bible. It is often described as “unmerited favor” which is a nice, brief and apt description but makes it sound so simplistic and so mundane, like a quick catch phrase. For that and other reasons I find it inadequate for such a phenomenal gift from our loving God. To me it sounds like a one time thing, which of course it is, when speaking only of the justification of our souls through the death , burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But God’s grace does not stop there. It is so much more. It is all pervasive in the life of the Christian and the non-Christian alike. God’s gentle rain falls on the just and the unjust. The warmth and light of the sun, the beauty of the whole creation which declares to all the glory of the one true God is available to the saved and the unsaved alike by the grace of God.

God’s grace is an outflow of his never ending mercy. It means that God is continually and perpetually favorably disposed toward mankind. For the Christian it is vital to her life in Christ. It is free, abundant and ever present like God Himself. I personally like the description, “grace is the divine influence upon the human heart.” That is all encompassing. It is God’s grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit that influences the human heart to be drawn to His Son, Jesus Christ. It is this divine influence on the heart that draws men and women into Christian service, and good works, works wrought by God. It is this divine influence on the human heart that draws us to God in times of trouble, sickness and death instead of causing us to look to the safety of our money or science and technology or to retreat within ourselves, or feel hopeless and become bitter.

The teacher of the first Bible study I ever did described “this grace in which we stand” as a room called grace, filled with grace—a safe space, a place of strength, a place of wisdom and learning, a place of continual forgiveness and freedom, a place of comfort where God wipes away our tears and brings joy in the morning, a place where we can bask in His lovingkindness and His light and truth. That is as all encompassing as God is omnipresent and omnipotent. And to sing the praises of God’s grace will take eternity, but we can begin now.

Music Link:  Wonderful Grace of Jesus  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsPc-Ix3_ow&list=RDvsPc-Ix3_ow#t=2