The Drawing of the Father

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . . . —John 6:44

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.

In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.

Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

By Oswald Chambers

When we discover our biggest need, God can finally call our hearts “home”

AllIsBright
Every Christmas, my family listened to the same album. It was the early ’90s, and Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas found its way to the cassette player before our Thanksgiving spread ever touched the table. My brother and I would let out a dramatic moan, roll our eyes, and stretch our disgruntled “Mom!” over four syllables.

It’s funny how the songs of my youth are more easily committed to memory than what I ate for lunch yesterday. “Emmanuel/God with us/The Son of Israel,” she sang. Twenty years later, I’m grateful for Amy Grant on repeat because her music helped form my theology.

All of Christmas can be wrapped up in two names given to the Messiah. Jesus is a transliteration of the Old Testament name Joshua, meaning, “The Lord is Salvation.” Immanuel, as Amy Grant sung melodiously, means “God with us.” Both of these show us that Christmas is more than just a story about baby Jesus and wise men bearing gifts. It’s the climax of an adventure, when the Father unveiled His great rescue plan. He would provide a solution to the sin that had separated mankind from Him since earth’s first inhabitants were ousted from the garden, and His sinless Son would join the human experience to show what He was really like. Dr. Stanley has often reminded us that without this plan, “every one of us would have to stand before God with all of our sin resting upon us, and our sins would separate us from Him.”

This story combined with the world’s celebration of Christmas makes it a confusing holiday. After pondering the magnificence and mystery of Christ’s birth at our church’s Christmas Eve service, I wake up to a deluge of wrapping paper and shiny presents that make my everyday lack of gadgets and fashions blindingly obvious. The line between needs and wants gets blurred, convincing me it’s all just a ruse to disguise the biggest need I have: God in me.

I’m reluctant to view Christmas as a solution to this need. I tend to focus on the lighter qualities of the holiday, like cookies and exchanging carefully selected tokens of affection. But being separated from God is an enormous problem. And while sin and separation aren’t to be celebrated, a valiant hero on the scene is. You see, in order for the plan to work, it required that God actually be with us—and not just with us, but also within us. Through Immanuel, our heavenly Father gifted us His indwelling presence—the Holy Spirit who “abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

This Christmas, the only gift we need is the one sent over 2,000 years ago: “Emmanuel/God with us/The Son of Israel.” He is Jesus, the God of our salvation, and the One who has saved us from a tragic eternity without Him. So as we bake our cookies and shop for the perfect gifts, may our celebration of the season begin and end with Him, our God with us.

by Jessica Haberkern

A Lesson from the Stork

“Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 8:7)

The migratory behavior of birds is fascinating. If it only occurred once, we would call it a miracle. Yet we see bird migrations twice a year, so we are desensitized to the Creator-designed magnificence of these journeys.

Geographically, Israel sits center stage among the great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many birds migrate from European and Asian winters to Africa, with the migrations reversed prior to summer. Yet which bird is famous for its early return home? The stork! So faithful is the stork that its very name (Hebrew chasidah) means “faithful one”!

Jeremiah lamented the ignorance and unfaithfulness of God’s people, and during his lifetime Israel was called to exhibit faithfulness to God. Except for a faithful remnant, Israel refused to repent, bringing the prophecy of judgment. Sadly, most of Israel stayed in the path of oncoming judgment, neglecting their opportunity to escape the just consequences of their sin. God chastised Israel’s unfaithful and ignorant behavior, contrasting their failure to “return” to Him with the wisdom and faithfulness of the returning migratory birds.

God’s people need to learn a lesson from the early-to-return-home stork, for our true and safe home is none other than God Himself. When we drift away from Him, distracted by the world (or ourselves), let us be quick to recognize that it is time to admit our wrong (1 John 1:9) and return to Him, our true refuge. JJSJ

A horror of great darkness fell upon him

“Lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.” (Gen. 15:12.)

THE sun at last went down, and the swift, eastern night cast its heavy veil over the scene. Worn out with the mental conflict, the watchings, and the exertions of the day, Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and in that sleep his soul was oppressed with a dense and dreadful darkness, such as almost stifled him, and lay like a nightmare upon his heart. Do you understand something of the horror of that darkness? When some terrible sorrow which seems so hard to reconcile with perfect love, crushes down upon the soul, wringing from it all its peaceful rest in the pitifulness of God, and launching it on a sea unlit by a ray of hope; when unkindness, and cruelty maltreat the trusting heart, till it begins to doubt whether there be a God overhead who can see and still permit—these know something of the “horror of great darkness.”

It is thus that human life is made up; brightness and gloom; shadow and sun; long tracks of cloud, succeeded by brilliant glints of light, and amid all Divine justice is working out its own schemes, affecting others equally with the individual soul which seems the subject of special discipline. O ye who are filled with the horror of great darkness because of God’s dealings with mankind, learn to trust that infallible wisdom, which is co-assessor with immutable justice; and know that He who passed through the horror of the darkness of Calvary, with the cry of forsakenness, is ready to bear you company through the valley of the shadow of death till you see the sun shining upon its further side. Let us, by our Forerunner, send forward our anchor, Hope, within the veil that parts us from the unseen; where it will grapple in ground and will not yield, but hold until the day dawns, and we follow it into the haven guaranteed to us by God’s immutable counsel. —F. B. Meyer.

The disciples thought that that angry sea separated them from Jesus. Nay, some of them thought worse than that; they thought that the trouble that had come upon them was a sign that Jesus had forgotten all about them, and did not care for them. Oh, dear friend, that is when troubles have a sting, when the devil whispers, “God has forgotten you; God has forsaken you”; when your unbelieving heart cries as Gideon cried, “If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” The evil has come upon you to bring the Lord nearer to you.

The evil has not come upon you to separate you from Jesus, but to make you cling to Him more faithfully, more tenaciously, more simply.—F. S. Webster, M. A. Never should we so abandon ourselves to God as when He seems to have abandoned us. Let us enjoy light and consolation when it is His pleasure to give it to us, but let us not attach ourselves to His gifts, but to Himself; and when He plunges us into the night of pure faith, let us still press on through the agonizing darkness.

Oh, for faith that brings the triumph
When defeat seems strangely near!
Oh, for faith that brings the triumph
Into victory’s ringing cheer—
Faith triumphant; knowing not defeat or fear.
—Herbert Booth.

The spot of His children

“The spot of His children.” Deuteronomy 32:5

What is the secret spot which infallibly betokens the child of God? It were vain presumption to decide this upon our own judgment; but God’s word reveals it to us, and we may tread surely where we have revelation to be our guide. Now, we are told concerning our Lord, “to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on His name.” Then, if I have received Christ Jesus into my heart, I am a child of God. That reception is described in the same verse as believing on the name of Jesus Christ. If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ’s name— that is, simply from my heart trust myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member of the family of the Most High.

Whatever else I may not have, if I have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God. Our Lord Jesus puts it in another shape. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Here is the matter in a nutshell. Christ appears as a shepherd to His own sheep, not to others. As soon as He appears, His own sheep perceive Him—they trust Him, they are prepared to follow Him; He knows them, and they know Him—there is a mutual knowledge—there is a constant connection between them. Thus the one mark, the sure mark, the infallible mark of regeneration and adoption is a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer.

Reader, are you in doubt, are you uncertain whether you bear the secret mark of God’s children? Then let not an hour pass over your head till you have said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” Trifle not here, I adjure you! If you must trifle anywhere, let it be about some secondary matter: your health, if you will, or the title deeds of your estate; but about your soul, your never-dying soul and its eternal destinies, I beseech you to be in earnest. Make sure work for eternity.

I will strengthen thee

“I will strengthen thee.” Isaiah 41:10

God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this engagement; for He is able to do all things. Believer, till thou canst drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till thou canst break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, thou never needest to fear. Think not that the strength of man shall ever be able to overcome the power of God. Whilst the earth’s huge pillars stand, thou hast enough reason to abide firm in thy faith. The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, dream not that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises. Remember what He did in the days of old, in the former generations.

Remember how He spake and it was done; how He commanded, and it stood fast. Shall He that created the world grow weary? He hangeth the world upon nothing; shall He who doth this be unable to support His children? Shall He be unfaithful to His word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not He ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds His chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of His hand? How can He fail thee? When He has put such a faithful promise as this on record, wilt thou for a moment indulge the thought that He has outpromised Himself, and gone beyond His power to fulfil? Ah, no! Thou canst doubt no longer.

O thou who art my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of Thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of Thy strength can never be emptied by Thy friends or rifled by Thine enemies.

“Now let the feeble all be strong,
And make Jehovah’s arm their song.”