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The great exchange

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I have never lacked in desire.  This is not to say it was always a particularly noble pursuit.  In fact, for many years, quite the opposite was true.  Like nearly everything, these burning ambitions began in junior high, coming to life somewhere between the ski hill and the school room.  The winter slopes gave me the adrenaline, the classroom a place to argue.  What more could a young man want?

Quite a bit.  But this realization would not arrive for nearly a decade.  The entirety of high school and the better half of college were consumed by an insatiable appetite for a rush.  Skiing, climbing, mountain biking, anything as long as it combined mountains and a significant chance of broken bones.  Accidents occurred, but this did little to dampen my enthusiasm.  Now I simply had a cool answer for why I was on crutches.

Living in Missoula didn’t help.  Mountain towns breed a powerful elitism, branding as a sellout anyone with less adventurous pursuits.  Careers and grades were mere annoyances, a footnote in your identity. True social standing hinged upon what you could do with the 1.7 seconds in the air after hitting a ski jump. I couldn’t tell you which friend set the curve on the calculus exam, but everyone knew who nailed the new trick at the slope.

Eventually competition arose.  I began meeting Christians who were just as passionate, yet pursued very different goals.  Most I wrote off as inauthentic, but a few made it through the filter unscathed. A missionary in Honduras, a local pastor in Missoula, they all proposed the same wild thought:  It’s possible to love God as much as fresh powder.  Really?

I recall with complete clarity the moment this arrived.  Haiti, of all places, working at a mission for a few weeks with an old high school friend. We served under an elderly Baptist couple, Wallace and Eleanor.  Married at 25, they moved to Haiti for their honeymoon and never left.  They were 75 when I met them, running the mission with more passion and vigor than any adrenaline soaked brat slamming through the moguls.

It was clear my life stood in stark contrast to the world outside my bedroom door.  Hopeless poverty, murder, voodoo worship, these were gritty and visceral challenges, not the manufactured battle of man against mountain.  I faced dangers all the same, but my reward was vanity and glory.  Theirs was simply another day to suffer. And of course, I could stop anytime.

That night I hit my knees, praying a simple petition.  God, if you are willing, please give me the same desire for you and your service as I have for skiing and climbing. This may sound laughable, but I was quite serious.  I knew how much joy and depth would come if could just redirect my desires.  Yet I feared the result.  Most Christians told me the answer lay in banishing my passions.   Abandon myself to the drudgery of a plastic suburban life and call it contentment. This I could not accept.  Contentment always appeared to me simply a pious label for what a Christian told another believer when he was jealous of the passion in their life.

Change came slowly.  A little slackening of desire.  A little less satisfaction after a day of climbing.  While the Holy Spirit cut and pulled at the old passions, I sensed room for something new.  A fresh patch of forest floor awash in new sunlight after the fall of towering old pine.

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”    Martin Luther

Leave me my mistakes

_

I hate mistakes.  Errors, wrong decisions, sub par performance, anything filling the vast gray area just shy of outright sin.  Responding to sin is simple, we confess our rebellion, ask forgiveness and repent.  What about honest mistakes, those decisions made with a clear conscience, yet we find are misguided?  A decision to change jobs, start a ministry, move your family.  I find just as much anxiety and stress under the burden of potential mistakes as I do from clear sin.  Perhaps more.

Psychologists define perfectionism as a belief that perfection can and should be attained.  It is the former half where we find a question with theological implications.  If we’ve read more than three verses in the bible we know perfectionism is pure hubris.  In fact God seems to take a certain pleasure in mocking our naive pursuit of a flawless life, always casting fumbling characters as the heroes of His plot.

None of us really believe perfection can be attained.  Or if you do, you’re probably not reading this essay.  Yet many of us still struggle mightily with the repercussions of second tier perfectionism.  In my own life, I see this tendency play out in how I trust God.  More specifically, how I trust God with the very opposite of perfection, the mistake. Our response to these blunders gives us a piercing look into how we view God.

The problem lies in the double standard.  As a mature Christian we well understand our Lord’s sovereignty over the actions of those around us.  We trust He is in control of the circumstances, the decisions, even the mistakes of those around us.  How else could we live in this world.  Yet this very comfort and grace we willingly approve for the entire world, we dare not let touch ourselves.  As if quarantined from His loving hand, we imagine God scowling down in contempt and spite, letting us wallow in our error.

It is here we go astray, picking between two great lies.  We either imagine our lives free of any accountability for our actions, or we live under the enormous weight of perfection.  The first is an error when we believe God will never love us enough to let us reap what we have sown.  The second fails when we believe that is all God will ever do.  We relish His grace for our salvation and our sins, but our decisions we suffer alone, far away from His mercy.  Let us not live under such lies.

If we believe a separate class of grace exists for our mistakes or wrong decisions, we should question our understanding of God’s goal for our life.  If we truly believe His goal is to make us holy, we would be far less concerned with perfect decisions.  It is the mistakes the Lord uses most grandly in His process of redemption.

Let us turn our focus from the prideful bondage of perfectionism and walk instead with the peace prepared for His humble servants.

The undramatic

_

Where do we turn in our darkest hour?  We’re often told the answer to this question reveals the true inclination of our heart.  When everything good is stripped away and we must leap from that quivering line separating faithfulness from rebellion.  Wrapped in the blackest watch of night the marrow of our character lies in wait.  The heavens drop silent in anxious anticipation, how will we respond?

While perhaps an interesting and poetic contemplation, I wonder how much light this truly shines on our spiritual character.  If I really consider the bleakest moments in my life, I find a fervent pursuit of God.  The choice is clear.  Turning away in this moment would require a conscious rebellion against our Father. Yet the test is only valid in one direction. If you fail, you must deeply consider whether or not you are even a Christian.  If you pass however, this still leaves the remaining 99% of your life unaccounted for.

Our focus is quite natural.  Young boys begin very early to imagine themselves a great hero, striding in at the last moment, valiantly saving the day.  I’ve yet to see a 6 year old cast off his superman cape and say dad, you know I really just want to find glory by diligently persevering through the small daily struggles in life. Of course not.  This is not exciting.  We crave dragons and swords, great battles and heroic rescues.  I don’t wish to disregard these passions, life would be horribly bland without this fire in our gut.  But it really does little to prepare us for the vast majority of life.  The slow and grinding adversity, far away from the banners and trumpets of war.  It is in these moments a Christian is defined.

Exciting moments of faith certainly exist.  A martyr undoubtedly passes through the darkest hour imaginable.  In humility we imagine we would falter in the moment.  Yet, I believe many of us, faced even with the ultimate test of our faith, would hold fast.   True, a martyr must act upon tremendous faith, but the calling is short and the reward close at hand.  In the final and often brutal ending, God seems to pour out the entirety of heaven on the faithful servant.  Stories of martyrs are filled with calm and faithful Christians facing their persecutor with inexplicable peace.

We are not martyrs of course.  For us, the challenge arrives not in a grand moment, but in a thousand little discouragements.  Discouragements so small, we can’t imagine it worthwhile to bother God with a plea for help.  Our cry for support from fellow believers suffers as well.  How many times have we kept quiet a simple prayer request of encouragement because it sounded too trivial next to our neighbor’s petition to heal cancer or save a marriage.

This is a great loss.  If we could view, in a moment, our entire life stretched out before us, we would see the great majority filled with a collection of small victories and failures.  It is in the tendency, the pattern, of these moments that we discern the faithfulness of a Christian.  Let us come to our Lord with the intensity of a martyr and hurl the peace upon the common and ordinary trials of our life.

God’s promises

Psalm 127:2

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

I read this verse completely by accident.  En route to another Psalm, my eye caught the word ‘sleep’ and I paused for a moment to investigate, expecting a peaceful word of encouragement from King David.  Perhaps something to memorize during sleepless nights or slumbering mornings.  Not so.  Not even close. In fact, I quickly despised the quaint little truism uttered by Solomon.

I’m an insomniac.  I simply fail at the entire process of sleeping.  I don’t fall asleep, but if I do, I do not remain, and if I remain, I awake just as tired.  Sleep is like a dear friend from youth who visits occasionally, but never stays quite long enough.  And even worse, when they finally arrive, the time together isn’t even enjoyed because there is such pressure and expectation to have this amazing reunion.  My reunion is sleep and I never get the invitation.

Worse tribulations exist.  I get it.  My quandary is not with insomnia, but with the simple line ‘for he grants sleep to those he loves.’   I’m sure Solomon penned this delightful little treasure after a night of blissful snoring , content in his temple, quite unaware of the theological implications.  However, if I read this verse literally, the conclusion is undeniable: God doesn’t love me.  This is terribly disappointing.  I had hoped the litmus test for our Father’s love and favor stood a bit higher than a good night’s sleep.

This is ridiculous of course. But we only say it is ridiculous because we simply can’t accept that God would act this way.  Our experience overrides the literalism.  Yet, if asked to explain why this verse ought not be considered an absolute promise, most of us would stumble.  At the surface the consequences are minimal.  A few sleep deprived believers walk away discouraged. But this verse hardly stands alone, the bible is awash in grand declarations and assurances.  This begs a question.

What good is a promise if it is only a general indication of probability?  It’s hardly encouraging to tell a brother in Christ, ‘don’t worry, statistically speaking, the majority of the time, God will provide food for you.’ For Americans, it’s usually just semantics.  Imagine however, a man suffering in the final throes of starvation, his body collapsing under a great famine.  In his last moments, he pulls you down to his dusty mat, points to Philippians 4:19, and asks: ‘please explain.’

What would you tell him?

Many Christians leave the faith because of a perception of unfulfilled promises.  This is of tremendous importance.  If we get it wrong, we set the stage for terrible disappointments no faith can endure.  If we get it right, we live in the hope of His principles and the great faith of His promises.

Look around you.  Nearly every Christian staggers under the bitterness of broken promises God never made. Ironically, it is this very cargo upon our shoulders which keeps us from the joy and levity of His true promises.  Far fewer, but far greater.  Promises of faithfulness, redemption and resurrection.

I believe it’s time for bed.

Idols best ignored

There are many idols in my yard.  Some are best dealt with head on.  A shovel, a pick-axe and a bit of determination will bring them down.  Others though, are hewn from a different wood.  Repeated blows from the axe do very little, in fact, they seem to grow stronger, as if their resiliency was strengthened by my very efforts to bring them down.  Exhausted from the struggle, eventually I give up and content myself with the garden on the other side of the property.  Lost in the colors and beauty, I quickly forget the lost battle.  Yet walking home I catch a glimpse of my old nemesis.  It has fallen.

I have found three great sins, all of which grow stronger under direct attack.  Pride, vanity and pity, those sins which fall quickest not through fervent contemplation, but rather by a steady neglect.  I recall the first time I really admitted pride was a struggle for me.  More than a struggle, it defined me.  Approaching it like every other sin, I threw it before a gauntlet of prayer, study and contemplation, scouring the bible in hope of deliverance.  Useless.

It simply never left.  No ground was gained. If anything, I found myself mired even deeper in the worship of Self.  Only now, I placed the great stamp of humility on the process and called it holy.  In reality I simply shifted the sin from pride to self absorption.  Semantics.

Redemption came not in days or weeks, but over months, perhaps decades.  The whole process slide forward at such a glacial pace, I only noticed the improvement when a friend mentioned the change.   Looking back, the greatest progress occurred during moments of total abandonment.  Or, as Andrew Murray calls it, absolute surrender.  When the presence of the Lord so consumes our thoughts and emotions we have no room left for pride.

Sometimes it comes during moments of deep prayer and meditation.  Often though, I am most consumed with His presence when simply serving someone else.  I believe He grants a unique level of peace for those moments when we just love someone more than ourselves.  Whether a moment of quiet counsel or a few words of encouragement, a deep joy awaits our most selfless acts.  And this joy we taste twice, for we find great happiness not only in our act of service but also in the knowledge that our idols are far away.

Our minds are not bottomless vessels or infinite repositories.  The very proportion in which the Lord fills our cup dictates how much room is left for the idols in our life.  How often we toil in vain attempts to keep it clean and empty.  This is impossible.  The Lord asks us not to carry around an empty cup, he asks us to let Him clean it and fill it with pure water.  We’ll often let Him remove the dirt and grit, but we insist He return it empty, trusting ourselves to do the refilling.

Such folly.  The simplest way to keep a cup clean is to fill it to the brim with something that never spoils.

know thyself

_

A few years ago, a new business book gained popularity with a very simple premise:  Know what you don’t know.  Or more simply, without knowing where you are ignorant, you cannot fill it with wisdom.  I apologize, that wasn’t any simpler.

I never read the book, but a quick glance proved this struggle was not unique to the business world.  On the contrary, I began to see it everywhere, and of course, quite prominently in my own life.  I found this surprising.  Introspective ruminations are one of my favorite past times.  Often to such a degree I was in very real danger of over doing it.  But this was different.

When we consider ourselves, whether it be our struggles, our sins, our oppressions, we get so used to thinking about something in a particular way, we forget there were ever any other options.  These tendencies form a well worn trail, pounded beneath many steps.  We go deeper of course, heroically pushing through swamps and ridges, trials and emotions, intimately learning every pebble and root.  Our efforts bring satisfaction, a sense of worthy endeavor.  Yet it is false.  We mistake effort for accuracy and never ask whether the trail was correct in the first place.

This is understandable. Familiarity is enticing, offering great comfort and solace. The devil is no fool though, and demands a price.  We must simply commit to retreading the same thoughts.  And then quietly he leaves, and with him steals away the power to open light upon the valleys.  His ruse works well, soon we are convinced no other trails ever existed.  Those valleys of unknown, the great voids in our understanding, were simply an illusion.  Like a blind man walking past a brilliant sunset, the colors are no longer missed.

This is a great tragedy, but if we respond, a tremendous opportunity. Within the unknown valleys, we often uncover the passage to our redemption. A passage that brings us before our false gods, and hands us the tool to bring them down.  Before a shining light and sharpened axe, the towering idols must fall to the ground.

They are different for each us. Some toil for years in anxiety and finally discover a terrible need for acceptance.  Others clutch bitterness and cynicism and find a deep root of distrust. Yet we must remember the author of this possibility.  Simple logic tells us we are incapable of learning on our own what we don’t already know.  This great impasse is broken only by the Word and the Holy Spirit.  Every other resource, the wise counsel of a friend or the quiet contemplations in our mind, is merely a reflection.

May He grant us the courage to step into the unknown.

Isaiah 41:18-19

I the LORD will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.

Of doubts and dangers. part 1

I am no stranger to doubts.  Somewhere during the formative years between kindergarten and junior high I looked around and concluded the world was quite ill.  Nothing seemed to work.  Two choices fell before me.  Abandon this unpleasant reality and live in a happy but delusional bliss, or carry on with eyes wide open but surrender any hope of peace and joy.  I chose the latter. A third choice, the correct one, would not arrive for another decade.

Approaching life with unrestrained observation naturally lead to doubts.  Of these, two great suspicions followed me throughout the years, equally caustic in their own unique way. The first arose when I realized the world was fallen.  The things I wanted rarely happened.  Those that I feared, often came true.  If God was my father, He wasn’t much of a dad.  Jesus said that a good father would not give us snake when asked for a fish.  Comforting words, but often it appeared more serpent than salmon.

Of course, this was all quite ludicrous.  The fallen and sinful nature of the world I blamed on God.  I wrongly assumed His greatest love for me was expressed by giving me the desires of my heart.  My desires were all wrong, so this was of little help. Nearly every Christian goes through a similar cleansing at some point in their faith.  The danger lies when the process remains incomplete.  Doubts about what He gives us give way to doubts about God Himself.  We begin to doubt the very character of God.  Not only is this simply foolish, it is absolutely destructive.

I can think of few circumstances more miserable than worshiping a God who you believe is not good.  Imagine yourself forced to worship a tyrannical king, storming about, always demanding allegiance and praise from his subjects.  Our world provides us with examples of this every century.  When we doubt God’s goodness we go even farther, heaping on guilt and shame over our skeptical hearts.  The tired slave, toiling in his service to the crown feels no guilt, only anger.  The Christian who doubts God’s goodness stands between two worlds, and in the end, reaps the worst of both.

Our relationship with God can weather doubts about His providence in a given situation, but it withers when we question His goodness. As Christians we’re provided very little instruction on how to process our doubts.  Often, this is because our pastors and teachers never learned the process themselves.  Yet the price is too high, we cannot afford to trample our relationship before such unrestrained skepticism.  Doubts are a normal part of our faith, but they must never control us.

The greatest danger lies not in the simple doubt, but in the continual revisiting of such foundational questions.  If you doubt that God is truly good, seek reconciliation immediately and find your answer.  If you have decided in your heart God is good, remove the question from the table.  Never again let doubts of His ultimate character cast shadows upon your relationship.  You cannot overestimate the freedom and joy awaiting this single decision.

Take joy from the reflection of a long obedience

I have always enjoyed hope. Not in the deep spiritual sense, as in awaiting the great reunion with our Lord in heaven.  Something closer to a young boy shaking the boxes under the Christmas tree in early December.  Every fiber of his being quivering in anticipation, awaiting the great joy wrapped in red ribbons and shiny green bows.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt a flutter of excitement over Christmas.  But other hopes still appear.  Often in the form of climbing.

 

Summiting Mt. Rainier loomed as a goal since I first moved to Seattle and lived beneath its icy slopes.  How anyone can live in Washington and not long to stand atop it’s roof simply baffles me.  The summer after my freshman year of college, the opportunity finally arose. I can recall few moments that brought such eagerness upon my emotions.  July finally arrived and we hiked and climbed for endless hours, slogging up mind numbing step after step.  The frozen hours of predawn darkness kept warm by the promise of victory. 

 

We did not summit.  Less than 500 hundred feet below the top, we turned around.  The wind blew with such ferocity, we struggled to merely stand, let alone climb.  My climbing partner, one of those perennially happy types, accepted our failure without complaint.  I was furious.  Two weeks passed and I tried again.  This time, the Lord smiled upon our silly ambitions and we summited under blue and flawless skies.  Intense joy, laced with adrenaline and filled with awe delighted our souls.  We descended and drove home.  Several days passed and it was gone.  Occasionally, brief moments of proud recollection would return, but they were rare.

 

I believe another type of joy exists.  A joy God has placed before us but we so rarely drink.  The deep satisfaction from reflecting upon a long obedience.  Pausing to notice the great redemption Jesus has wrought in our lives, the movement from sinner to saint so lost in the narrow vision of the moment.  Our friends often see the changes before we do.  A calm response to a situation that used to bring rage.   A steady obedience where flippancy once ruled.

 

Perhaps it is a hyper sense of grace which robs us of this experience.  We are taught, and rightly so, to snuff out any hint of credit for the good accomplished in our lives.  But we are reckless in our cleaning.  Casting our net too wide, we ensnare the victories achieved through His grace.  

 

Our Father does not ask us to forget how we have changed, he simply asks us to give Him the credit.  The most profound changes in my life did not happen overnight.  Not in a week, month or even a year.  They are slow and meandering, indiscernible in the moment. Without a periodic glance back over the long view, these changes would be lost.  The growth occurs regardless, but how tragic to not witness the profound and constant work of the Holy Spirit.

 

The joy remembered from past victories provides the sustenance that our hope for the future must feed upon.  God asked the Israelites to anchor their hope in the desert upon the recollections of His providence in the past.  Jesus takes it a step further and casts this request upon our entire life. 

 

Let us do the same and take joy in the grace already come.

Paralyzed by motives

_

Questioning of our motives ought never outweigh the command Jesus gives us to love our neighbor.  I love theology, but there are moments when a little common sense trumps the deepest contemplations of the spirit.  Serving the Lord provides us with ample opportunity to face our motives.  The question is how we respond.  I’ve witnessed three approaches in my own life: 1.) Ignore the question completely. While this certainly wins no points for spirituality, you can get a lot done.  2.) Consider the motives, offer them to the Lord, consider how you can purify them and move on to the task at hand. 3.) Wallow in guilt over your shameful motives, label it humility and retreat.  The latter, of course, is the one I find interesting. 

I have no trouble finding myriad examples of this in my own life.  I have been blessed with a delightfully prideful spirit and thus, selfishness preys upon every ambition.  Several times in my life I have arrived at a distinct moment when I had to decide how this would affect my ministry.  Often, this was some form of leadership.  I enjoy leading, but it also brings a huge potential for developing an inflated sense of your self worth.  This, I already had in spades. 

The question was clear.  Should I avoid a leadership position until my motives are purified?  This sounded quite noble at first.  Can you think of a more humble and pious excuse for not serving in ministry?  Ridiculous.  Even the motivation of humility is currupted.  Yet there lies a tendency, both in myself and in fellow Christians, to label certain ambitions as most dangerous.  Pride, glory, legalism, merit, etc.  Yet we cheerfully overlook the more likely motives of fear, laziness and comfort.  

Our motives are not etched in granite.  They are malleable, fluid and highly dependent upon the condition of our heart in any given moment.  Yes, there are long term trends as our motives degrade or purify, but the sin will haunt us until we meet our Lord in heaven.  Something as simple as a conversation, or reading scripture can completely reverse our motives in a matter of seconds.  How frantic would our lives look if we constantly assessed our motives and instantly responded to any changes. 

An example.  Often I arrive at community group in a less than stellar mood.  I’m not sure if the devil carries a daily planner, but if so, Wednesdays at 6:30 are certainly circled in red. I imagine myself gathering the group together after our meal, everyone taking a seat around the living room.  Hey guys, I’m sorry but my heart just isn’t in the right spot and if I lead tonight I may become prideful.  Please go home, we’ll try again next week.  I hope they would ask me never to return. 

Do we not follow a similar route in ministry?  This scene looks ridiculous because it occurs after the leader long ago agreed to lead the group.  Is it much better when we never join the ministry in the first place because we fear ill motives?  Much like pride, I’ve found motives are redeemed not by intense scrutiny, but rather through an intense focus on the Lord.

Oswald Chambers, in his classic My Utmost for His Highest continually returns to the importance of immediacy.  We must learn to place this instant response of hearts upon the revelation of our motives.  And with this, we can joyfully return to the task at hand.  My fear is not that we spend our lives under unredeemed motives.  No, I fear the deep joy we miss when while waiting for the flawless motives reserved for us in heaven.  

We do not grow into a spiritual relationship step by step— we either have a relationship or we do not. God does not continue to cleanse us more and more from sin— “But if we walk in the light,” we are cleansed “from all sin” ( 1 John 1:7  ). It is a matter of obedience, and once we obey, the relationship is instantly perfected. But if we turn away from obedience for even one second, darkness and death are immediately at work again.  —  My Utmost for His Highest, October 10th.

Notes on Prayer by Andrew Murray

My hope is to periodically mix in selections from Christian classics.  I’ve realized not everyone shares my affinity for whittling away the hours reading obscure books from 19th century Scottish missionaries.  My hope is you may enjoy short selections from these wonderful books.

An excerpt from The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray. 

The greatest stumbling-block in the way of victory over prayerlessness is the secret feeling that we shall never obtain the blessing of being delivered from it. Often have we put forth effort in this direction, but in vain. Old habit and the power of the flesh, our surroundings with their attractions, have been too strong for us. What good is it to attempt that which our heart assures us is out of our reach? The change needed in the entire life is too great and too difficult. If the question is put: ‘Is a change possible?’ our sighing heart says: ‘Alas, for me it is entirely impossible!’ Do you know why that reply comes? It is simply because you have received the call to prayer as the voice of Moses and as a command of the law. Moses and his law have never yet given anyone the power to obey.

Do you really long for the courage to believe that deliverance from a prayerless life is possible for you and may become a reality? Then you must learn the great lesson that such a deliverance is included in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, that it is one of the blessings of the New Covenant which God himself will impart to you through Christ Jesus. As you begin to understand this you will find that the exhortation, ‘Pray without ceasing’, conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart that the Spirit – who has been bestowed on you to cry constantly, ‘Abba, Father’- will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken, not in the spirit of discouragement, but in the gladness of hope, to the voice that calls you to repentance.

Many a one has turned to his inner chamber, under bitter selfaccusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come – there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus, If he had only understood, he would have said: ‘Lord, thou seest how cold and dark my heart is: 1 know that 1 must pray, but I feel 1 cannot do so; 1 lack the urgency and desire to pray.’

He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in his tender love was looking down upon him and saying: ‘You cannot pray; you feel that all is cold and dark: why not give yourself over into my hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer; I long greatly to shed abroad my love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on me to bestow the grace of prayer. Just as 1 will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will 1 deliver from the sin o prayerlessness – only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before me as one who expects everythin from his Saviour. Let your soul keep silence before me however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of thi – I will teach you how to pray.’

Many a one will acknowledge: ‘I see my mistake; I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleans me from this sin also. I had not understood that he wa with me every day in the inner chamber, in his great love ready to keep and bless me, however sinful and guilty felt myself to be. 1 had not supposed that just as he will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, above all and before all, he will bestow the grace of a praying heart. What folly to think that all other blessings must come from him, but that prayer, whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! Thank God I begin to comprehend – the Lord Jesus is himself in the inner chamber watching over me, and holding himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. This only he demands – that I, with childlike confidence, wait upon him and glorify him.’

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