The Great Life

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled . . . —John 14:27

Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. Once we get to that point, there is nothing easier than living the life of a saint. We encounter difficulties when we try to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.

God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming. If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. This shows no unity with God or confidence in Him. The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions. God counters our self-willed decisions with an appeal for simplicity and unity.

My questions arise whenever I cease to obey. When I do obey God, problems come, not between me and God, but as a means to keep my mind examining with amazement the revealed truth of God. But any problem that comes between God and myself is the result of disobedience. Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.

By Oswald Chambers

Portrait of a Mother

Mary Jesus
Seeing Christ anew through the eyes of Mary

The house was dark, but more importantly, it was quiet. A few hours before, we had wrestled the children into their pajamas, then put them in bed only to put them back again. It was exhausting.

When you’re a parent, you make the most of any free time available. You stay up late, pushing your body’s clock to its limit for just a couple more hours of peace. And so we did. The two of us shared a late dinner and then retired to the sofa with books in hand. But pretty soon, my wife was yawning.

“I’m going to bed. You coming?”

“Just going to finish this chapter,” I said.

Down the hall, I soon heard the faucet turn on and off, and the tumble dryer start up. The rafters above popped as they contracted in the cooling air, and lemon-scented steam puffed from the dishwasher as it hummed a gentle dactylic rhythm. Outside, the neighborhood was calm—all cars motionless, the barking dogs now silent.

Eventually, sleep began to overtake me. I shuffled toward the bathroom and could see from the glow of a bedside lamp that my wife was fast asleep beneath blankets.

I stopped to study her face, serene as a moon nestled in the night of her dark hair, and recalled the many times in recent months I had observed her like this—except then she often lay half-awake soothing a weary baby.

Sometimes in these moments, and especially at this time of year, I can’t help but think of Mary and her child. I watch my wife with our daughters at breakfast or playing in the yard, and wonder about the woman who gave birth to, and reared day by day, the One who would open the gate of salvation to humankind.

At the church of my childhood, Mary always stood on the periphery of our Christmas celebration, where we joined her, looking into the manger together with the privileged few who witnessed the Lord’s first hours. Something in me believes this is how she would want it.

Yet as I get older, I’ve come to see that I appreciate the child more by also appreciating His mother—an idea that’s both biblical and Christlike. No doubt Jesus was a loving son who held His mother in high regard. Isn’t it curious that some Christians would choose to do otherwise?

On a recent visit to the art museum, I found myself wandering through the European gallery, stopping first at the Renoirs and Pissaros, moving on to the Monets and the others I usually pause at. As I turned the corner, I noticed a painting I hadn’t seen before—the 19th century equivalent of a candid portrait, imagined by the French artist Luc-Olivier Merson. In Merson’s vision, Mary balances the baby Jesus in her arms, as she herself leans against a stone wall. She stares off into the distance vacantly—an expression that anyone who has spent prolonged hours alone with an infant would recognize. There is nothing ceremonious about her depiction—no angels in attendance, no gathered assembly kneeling before her.

What’s extraordinary is how ordinary the scene is: it could be any young mother and her child. And yet, it isn’t. It is the Son of God and the woman chosen to contain in her womb the One who cannot be contained. As I ponder this, I’m meditating on the loftiness of the nativity, but also on its earthiness—that Christ was taught to eat, speak, pray, and worship in the context of an ordinary human relationship.

For some time now, I’ve noted a peculiar effect on my perception of friends after meeting their parents. Somehow, these folks I’ve known awhile become more whole: I see new dimensions of their lives that were previously hidden to me. The same is true of Jesus. We get to know Him best by spending one-on-one time in His presence. But you’ll learn something by “meeting” His mother. Scripture offers us the opportunity to look again at that scene under a starry sky—the manger child, yes, but also His mother. You’ll know her when you see her. She’ll be the one standing by in grateful adoration.

by Cameron Lawrence

“Wise” Fools

“As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; . . . Saying to a stock, Thou art my father, and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face.” (Jeremiah 2:26-27)

Indeed, the leaders of Israel should have hidden their faces from God! The very idea of repudiating the God who had created them, redeemed them from death, and then established them as a great nation, in favor of a vain evolutionary, pantheistic polytheism rampant among their heathen neighbors, is preposterous. God’s people should have tried to lead these pagan evolutionists back to the Creator, instead of adopting their own utterly impotent cosmogony. They surely had sense enough to know that wooden images and stone idols could never generate living human beings!

But this ancient delusion is highly sophisticated and realistic compared to our modern “scientific” evolutionism. Modern “inflationary” cosmogonists actually believe that the entire ordered universe evolved out of a “quantum fluctuation in a primeval state of nothingness.” Modern “origin-of-life” biochemists have faith that dead chemical elements in a primordial soup generated complex living cells against infinitely impossible odds. And many modern physical anthropologists credulously insist that chattering chimpanzee-like “hominids” were miraculously transmuted into intelligent, spiritual human beings—all in spite of the fact that true science utterly repudiates every aspect of this impossible evolutionary fantasy.

Paul, speaking of the ancient evolutionists, commented as follows: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Yet these early idolaters never carried their anti-creationism to such absurd reductionist extremes as do their modern descendants. The Bible calls them fools. HMM

His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray…

“His disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray… and he said unto them, When ye pray, say,… Thy kingdom come.” (Luke 11:1, 2.)

WHEN they said, “Teach us to pray,” the Master lifted His eyes and swept the far horizon of God. He gathered up the ultimate dream of the Eternal, and, rounding the sum of everything God intends to do in the life of man, He packed it all into these three terse pregnant phrases and said, “When you pray, pray after this manner.”

What a contrast between this and much praying we have heard. When we follow the devices of our own hearts, how runs it? “O Lord bless me, then My family, My church, My city, My country,” and away on the far fringe as we close up, there is a prayer for the extension of His Kingdom throughout the wide parish of the world.

The Master begins where we leave off. The world first, my personal needs second, is the order of this prayer. Only after my prayer has crossed every continent and every far-flung island of the sea, after it has taken in the last man in the last backward race, after it has covered the entire wish and purpose of God for the world, only then am I taught to ask for a piece of bread for myself.

When Jesus gave His all, Himself for us and to us in the holy extravagance of the Cross, is it too much if He asks us to do the same thing? No man or woman amounts to anything in the kingdom, no soul ever touches even the edge of the zone of power, until this lesson is learned that Christ’s business is the supreme concern of life and that all personal considerations, however dear or important, are tributary thereto.—Dr. Francis.

When Robert Moffat, the veteran African missionary and explorer, was asked once to write in a young lady’s album, he penned these lines:

“My album is a savage breast,
Where tempests brood and shadows rest,
Without one ray of light;
To write the name of Jesus there,
And see that savage bow in prayer,
And point to worlds more bright and, fair,
This is my soul’s delight.”

“And His Kingdom shall have no frontier.” (Luke 1:33, the old Moravian version.)

The missionary enterprise is not the Church’s afterthought; it is Christ’s forethought.—Henry
van Dyke.

I am crucified with Christ

“I am crucified with Christ.” Galatians 2:20

The Lord Jesus Christ acted in what He did as a great public representative person, and His dying upon the cross was the virtual dying of all His people. Then all His saints rendered unto justice what was due, and made an expiation to divine vengeance for all their sins. The apostle of the Gentiles delighted to think that as one of Christ’s chosen people, he died upon the cross in Christ. He did more than believe this doctrinally, he accepted it confidently, resting his hope upon it. He believed that by virtue of Christ’s death, he had satisfied divine justice, and found reconciliation with God.

Beloved, what a blessed thing it is when the soul can, as it were, stretch itself upon the cross of Christ, and feel, “I am dead; the law has slain me, and I am therefore free from its power, because in my Surety I have borne the curse, and in the person of my Substitute the whole that the law could do, by way of condemnation, has been executed upon me, for I am crucified with Christ.” But Paul meant even more than this. He not only believed in Christ’s death, and trusted in it, but he actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, “I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them.” Such is the experience of every true Christian.

Having received Christ, he is to this world as one who is utterly dead. Yet, while conscious of death to the world, he can, at the same time, exclaim with the apostle, “Nevertheless I live.” He is fully alive unto God. The Christian’s life is a matchless riddle. No worldling can comprehend it; even the believer himself cannot understand it. Dead, yet alive! crucified with Christ, and yet at the same time risen with Christ in newness of life! Union with the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and death to the world and sin, are soul-cheering things. O for more enjoyment of them!

They go from strength to strength

“They go from strength to strength.” Psalm 84:7

They go from strength to strength. There are various renderings of these words, but all of them contain the idea of progress. Our own good translation of the authorized version is enough for us this morning. “They go from strength to strength.” That is, they grow stronger and stronger. Usually, if we are walking, we go from strength to weakness; we start fresh and in good order for our journey, but by-and-by the road is rough, and the sun is hot, we sit down by the wayside, and then again painfully pursue our weary way. But the Christian pilgrim having obtained fresh supplies of grace, is as vigorous after years of toilsome travel and struggle as when he first set out. He may not be quite so elate and buoyant, nor perhaps quite so hot and hasty in his zeal as he once was, but he is much stronger in all that constitutes real power, and travels, if more slowly, far more surely.

Some gray-haired veterans have been as firm in their grasp of truth, and as zealous in diffusing it, as they were in their younger days; but, alas, it must be confessed it is often otherwise, for the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds, but this is their own sin and not the fault of the promise which still holds good: “The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future.

“Alas!” say they, “we go from affliction to affliction.” Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace. God will give the strength of ripe manhood with the burden allotted to full-grown shoulders.