“He makes Himself known to those who, after doing all that their powers will allow, confess that they need help from Him.”
* * * *
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, Phillips)
"The inward turning to Him is easy, natural and effortless, because He is at your centre. He is drawing you."
"O Divine Shepherd! Thou feedest Thy sheep with Thine own hand, and Thou art their food from day to day."
* * *
"I am the good shepherd, and I know those that are mine and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I am giving my life for the sake of the sheep.
“And I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. I must lead these also, and they will hear my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd. This is the reason why the Father loves me—that I lay down my life, and I lay it down to take it up again! No one is taking it from me, but I lay it down of my own free will." (John 10:14-18a)
Imagine you’re sitting in a roadside pub, having an inexpensive cup of some rather foul wine, and you’re not thinking about anything in particular. Around you are the sounds, sights and smells of such a place: the swearing, the dirty jokes, the unkempt-looking and -smelling sorts of people who spend time in this sort of place.
Why are you here? Because, having traveled south to see the baptizer-teacher down at the Jordan—having not been particularly impressed by the weirdness of the experience of that man—you are waiting for your brother, Andrew (who has lagged behind to talk with the baptizer), in order to travel back to the Galilee and get back to work on your fishing boats.
You are sitting here, in this roadside pub, thinking of nothing really at all, when the door opens—the light flooding in—and in comes your brother, just now. There is a very strange look in the look of his eyes. He approaches in the half-darkness of the pub and grips you by both shoulders.
“I have met the Messiah,” he says, “the Anointed of God!”
You take a deep breath in—let it out. “Where?” you ask.
“He is sitting under a tree outside,” Andrew says.
“No,” Andrew replies. “God.”
You wait for him to say something else. He just stares at you. “God is sitting outside under a tree?”
“Outside? Under a tree?”
He nods again.
“Alright,” you say. “Let’s go have a look.”
You pay off your tab and then wind your way through the half-light, following after your brother, out through the day-drinkers of this roadside pub. The outside light is blinding for a moment. You follow after Andrew down the road to the left; then across a narrow path across a field—there is a short stubby tree in the middle-distance. In its shade is another man of the Galilee—the younger brother of James of Zebedee—and then, for the first time, you see the Man your brother was talking about.
He is rising to His feet to meet you in the shade, there.
His eyes are sparkling with the warmest kind of affection.
He steps out of the shade—the sunlight lights His features—He extends His hands toward you—all warmth, all kindness, all joyfulness—and then (quite surprisingly) He embraces you, kisses you on the cheek. He is whispering in your ear as He does so:
“Everyone calls you Simon, but I won’t. For me, you will always be Peter—Petros—a rock.”
You take a step back and away from the intensity of this Man. The look in His eyes is ageless; all-consuming; eternal. You are both awed and slightly afraid of the look in His eyes. This encounter with Him is the beginning of the rest of your life…
Decades later, imagine that man—now an old man—sitting down to a bare-topped table and taking up his writing quill. He is again thinking of that day—of the way it felt to make the acquaintance of God incarnate—and he smiles to himself and then writes this:
Simon PETER, a servant and messenger of Jesus Christ, sends this letter to those who have been given a faith as valuable as ours in the righteousness of our God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. May you know more and more of grace and peace as your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord grows deeper.
He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.
"...since our nature has God as its requisite author, it is certain that we must have Him for our teacher that we may be wise; Him, too, to dispense to us spiritual sweetness that we may be blessed."
Augustine of Hippo
The City of God
* * * *
"Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:16b,17, ESV)
Today’s openness to the speaking Voice of Jesus (His Holy Spirit) is the guarantee of tomorrow’s leading; too, its potentiality: its adventure.
We will be going then as far as we are willing to listen now.
"We must form our estimate of men less from their achievements and failures, and more from their sufferings. The only profitable relationship to others - and especially to our weaker brethren - is one of love, that is the will to hold fellowship with them. Even God did not despise humanity, but became Man for man's sake."
Letters & Papers from Prison
* * * *
Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, Phillips)
"The meek person is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father. He is willing to wait for that day."
The Pursuit of God
You have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.
In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:15b-21, Phillips)
“It is absolutely necessary for us to recapture the sense that this limited human life is surrounded and interpenetrated by a timeless spiritual dimension. Christ spoke unequivocally about ‘coming from’ the Father, and ‘going to’ the Father. It was said of him that ‘he went about doing good and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people.’ He claimed that the work which he did, whether it was the healing of body, mind or soul was the work of God himself. Yet at the same time he stated quite definitely that his ‘Kingdom is not of this world.’ In other words, while he operated within the time-and-space situation, and neither despised nor detached himself from actual human living, he lived in continual awareness of what, for want of a better word, we call ‘eternity.’…
“It is those who know God to be eternal who most satisfactorily prove that God is their contemporary.”
God Our Contemporary
O Father, thou art my eternity.
Not on the clasp of consciousness—on thee
My life depends; and I can well afford
All to forget, so thou remember, Lord.
In thee I rest; in sleep thou dost me fold;
In thee I labour; still in thee, grow old;
And dying, shall I not in thee, my Life, be bold?
- George MacDonald
from The Diary of an Old Soul
* * * *
Listen, and I will tell you a secret. We shall not all die, but suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, every one of us will be changed as the trumpet sounds! The trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised beyond the reach of corruption, and we who are still alive shall suddenly be utterly changed. For this perishable nature of ours must be wrapped in imperishability, these bodies which are mortal must be wrapped in immortality.
So when the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’
It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!
And so brothers and sisters of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, Phillips)
"This fact of the historical Christ brings a high degree of certainty and authority, but not full certainty and authority. For, after all, if Jesus is only historical, it would be authority outside ourselves standing in history. No authority from without can be complete authority for us, unless it can become identified with our very selves, and can speak from within. The Christ of history must become the Christ within. We cannot live upon a remembrance, however beautiful. We can only live upon a realization. But Jesus becomes that. He told his disciples that it was expedient for him to go away, so he went, but ‘he changed his presence for his omnipresence.’ He came back more vital than before. Timid believers became irresistible apostles, for Christ had moved into their inmost souls. Life became merged: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ cries the transformed Paul. Archimedes, after pondering a mathematical problem, suddenly finds the solution, and in his excitement rushes up the street crying, ‘Eureka, I’ve got it!’ These men, pondering deeper problems, find a deeper solution, and cry from deeper depths: ‘We’ve got it.’ Christ becomes self-evidencing. The historical passes into the experimental. They become witnesses."
E. Stanley Jones
Christ at the Round Table
Two criminals crucified with Jesus
TWO CRIMINALS WERE ALSO LED out with him for execution…
One of the criminals hanging there covered him with abuse, and said, “Aren’t you Christ? Why don’t you save yourself—and us?”
But the other one checked him with the words, “Aren’t you afraid of God even when you’re getting the same punishment as he is? And it’s fair enough for us, for we’ve only got what we deserve, but this man never did anything wrong in his life.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And Jesus answered, “I tell you truly, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
Later that evening…
TOWARDS THE END, he would cast his glance to the left—to the now-empty cross of the teacher—and his struggling breaths would continually offer up last words. He offered up his last words perhaps one hundred times that evening. (They had broken his legs an hour or two before this.) When he turned his gaze, his darting glimpse a fragmentary impression of the scene, he would snatch another look at that empty cross; consider it. From the horizontal downward, the vertical was a river’s delta of dried blood. Its color veined and spider-webbed its way down to the earth. The earth below had a black puddle; blood drops all around. The empty cross seemed to tell a story he didn’t fully understand.
The flesh of his hands and arms was beginning to tear from the full weight of his body hanging—his broken legs sagged, twisted, beneath him. Each and every breath was shallower; agony. He could hear the groans of his former partner-in-crime, farther past.
When the end came, it came, mercifully, quickly.
The breaths became exhausting, exhausted.
He could feel his head start swaying forward and to the right.
His neck now held no power to hold it up…
And when he “awoke,” he was walking through a grand overwhelming door (more like a gateway), all of gold, entering into an impossibly cavernous interior space. He was vaguely aware of infinitudes of forms—huge glorious figures and radiant-faced individuals—watching him: but he focused all his attentions on continuing forward.
For there—up ahead—up a three-stepped stairway ending in a molten golden dais—was the Throne of Heaven and--
The happy thief, for the second time that day, spoke aloud his name:
And the man on the Throne smiled and said to him: “Now didn’t I tell you?”
Last week, I asked a circle of friends from all over the world to send me the "latest, freshest" experiences they were having with the Lord. What a week of constant delights in reading their replies!
Here are some of my favorite lines and thoughts from their return emails:
A quote from an interview with Tim Keller (who passed away just a few days before) - "There is a famous short story by J.R.R. Tolkien called “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle is a painter who spends his entire life trying to paint a mural of a tree. By the end of his life, he has only gotten one leaf completed. Then he dies. But when he gets to heaven, he sees the tree that was always there in his mind. That is the way of the Christian."
"I have been struck in a fresh way by the accessibility that Jesus offers me - that I don’t have to muster up or do anything to earn access to Him. I can come just as I am with nothing to offer but myself."
"No matter what I am facing, which some days feels like a lot, to know and trust and believe and rely on this amazing truth. JESUS IS WITH ME. Right here. With me. Thank you Jesus. Truly."
"Jesus shows up in everyone, if our eyes are open. The bummer is that sometimes it takes [really difficult times] to…open my eyes…..to see all of what he has for us……this is the Kingdom of God come down."
"[During a meeting this week,] I found my mind wandering to a walk with Jesus. Mind you: this never happens to me. But it was just enough cacophony of the world that I wished that I could leave. I pictured a quiet walk with Jesus and the peace & gratitude for all that I have. And that... that moment is enough."
"Psalms 3:5- (modified into my own language for myself and those who I’m mourning for) - When I sweep my sin under the door, my body wastes away. As long as I pretend I’m fine without God, I will face one disappointment after another. Even my wins will be blunted and fall short of full satisfaction. My vitality gets drained just as the earth is when scorched by fire. But when I acknowledge my need for help and stop ignoring my shortcomings, you are there waiting calmly and peacefully ready to forgive me and bring true life back into my mind and body. You sprout new growth in my life and nourish and strengthen me."
"I have just been thinking about and so grateful for Jesus’ kindness this week. He’s so kind and really does not need to be or owe it to us. There are a couple of places in my life that he is making such a clear “way” where I thought there was no way. What’s been getting me this week is that He always does it with His loving kindness. It’s often (not always) so gentle that I don’t even realize He’s doing it or correcting me or guiding me until I am through it."
In pondering on the Ascension of Jesus: "It feels impossible to rise from that place of utter love, full of tears and sorrow and confusion - to a place in my brain that processes language."
Friends, isn't it amazing to think that, anywhere anyone opens their heart to our Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He still speaks like this!
Remember, this day: He is alive!
"Our Lord saith that the Kingdom of God is near us. Yea, the Kingdom of God is within us as St Paul saith 'our salvation is nearer than when we believed.' Now we should know in what manner the Kingdom of God is near us. Therefore let us pay diligent attention to the meaning of the words. If I were a king, and did not know it, I should not really be a king. But, if I were fully convinced that I was a king, and all mankind coincided in my belief, and I knew that they shared my conviction, I should indeed be a king, and all the wealth of the king would be mine. But, if one of these three conditions were lacking, I should not really be a king.
"In similar fashion our salvation depends upon our knowing and recognizing the Chief Good which is God Himself. I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and presence of God... [Man's] happiness increases and diminishes in proportion to the increase and diminution in his knowledge of this. His happiness does not arise from this that God is near him, and in him, and that He possesses God; but from this, that he knows the nearness of God, and loves Him, and is aware that 'the Kingdom of God is near.' So, when I think on God’s Kingdom, I am compelled to be silent because of its immensity, because God’s Kingdom is none other than God Himself with all His riches. God’s Kingdom is no small thing: we may survey in imagination all the worlds of God’s creation, but they are not God’s Kingdom. In whichever soul God’s Kingdom appeareth, and which knoweth God’s Kingdom, that soul needeth no human preaching or instruction; it is taught from within and assured of eternal life. Whoever knows and recognizes how near God’s Kingdom is to him may say with Jacob, 'God is in this place, and I knew it not.'"
From the sermon "The Nearness of the Kingdom"
“Grant Thy servants, O God, to be set on fire with Thy Spirit, strengthened by Thy power, illuminated by Thy splendour, filled with Thy grace, and to go forward by Thine aid. Give them, O Lord, a right faith, perfect love, true humility. Grant, O Lord, that there may be in us simple affection, brave patience, persevering obedience, perpetual peace, a pure mind, a right and honest heart, a good will, a holy conscience, spiritual strength, a life unspotted and unblamable; and after having manfully finished our course, may we be enabled happily to enter into Thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
- A prayer of the Third Century Church
“I am no more than a child, but my Father lives for ever and I have a Protector great enough to save me. For he who begot me and he who watches over me are one and the same, and for me there is no good but you, the Almighty, who are with me even before I am with you. So to such as you command me to serve I will reveal, not what I have been, but what I have become and what I am.”
Augustine of Hippo
* * *
Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! (1 John 3:1,2, Phillips)
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom for man to comfort his neighbour. ‘He who believes in me,’ says Jesus Christ himself in another Scripture passage, ‘out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ This happens when we look up to him. No one has ever looked up to him without this miracle happening. No one who gets slowly used to looking up to him has failed to glimpse light around him. The dark earth on which we live has always become bright whenever man looked up to him, and believed in him.
“‘Look up to him, your face will shine, and you shall never be ashamed.’ I just mentioned the ‘dark’ earth. Reading the newspapers, looking around at the world and into our own hearts and lives, we can’t possibly deny that the earth is really dark, that we live in a world to be afraid in. Why afraid? Because we all live under the threat of being put to shame, and rightly so. This would not only imply that we have blundered here and there, but that our whole life, with all our thoughts, desires and accomplishments, might be in truth, in God’s judgment and verdict, a failure, an infamy, a total loss. This is the great threat. This is why the ground shakes under our feet, the sky is covered with clouds, and the earth, so beautifully created, darkens. Indeed we should be put to shame.
“But now we hear the very opposite. ‘You shall never be ashamed.’ What I would like to do, dear brothers and sisters, is to ask you, each and all, to get up together and like a choir repeat: ‘We must never be ashamed!’ Each one would have to repeat it for himself and lastly I would repeat it for myself : ‘I must never be ashamed!’ This is what counts. We shall not be, I shall not be, ashamed, not when looking up to him. Not because we deserve to be spared the shame! Not even because our faces shine when raised to him. Our radiance will be and must be a sign that we will not be put to shame. It is an evidence of the relationship established between God and ourselves. And this is the power of the relationship: what is true and valid in heaven, what Jesus Christ has done for us, what has been accomplished by him, man’s redemption, justification and preservation, is true and valid on earth also. The Father does not put us, his children, to shame when we look up to Jesus. In consequence we, his children, may never be ashamed. This we may know, this may be our strength, this may be our life, if only we look up to him, fearlessly and brightly. May each one repeat in his heart: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’”
from a sermon in 1956
By Henry Vaughan
My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
“…think of the dignity and honor which is ours. Sons of God with Him; Heirs of God with Him; one with Him, perfectly identified with the blessed One in God’s presence. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. To walk worthy of the Lord is our calling; and worthy of the Lord we shall walk if we have the great fact of our fellowship with the Son of God as a reality before our souls. It is a sad state to speak theoretically of our position in Christ, to know all this with our intellects and not to manifest it in our lives and show forth the excellencies of Him, who has called us from darkness into his marvellous light. He is not ashamed to call us brethren.”
The Lord of Glory
"Lord, grant thine unworthy one his desire, for I am thine, and thou hast bought me with thy blood. Thou hast opened mine eye to see thee, and the sight has saved me. Lord, open thou mine ear. I have read thy heart, now let me hear thy lips."
Charles H. Spurgeon
Morning & Evening
“It was as a Bridegroom Christ came, anointed with all the perfumes of a dedicated love, and until the last bitter hour of His rejection, He moved with such lyric joyousness across the earth, that life became festive in His presence. It is as a Bride the church exists on earth, and if no festive smiles are awakened by its presence, and no gracious unsealing of the founts of love in human hearts, then is it not Christ’s Church, for He has passed elsewhere with another company to the marriage-feast, and His Church stands without, before a barred and darkened door.”
The Empire of Love
Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do…
The argument of the apostles is that the Man Jesus has been made higher than angels, higher than Moses and Aaron, higher than any creature in earth or heaven. And this exalted position He attained as a man. As God He already stood infinitely above all other beings. No argument was needed to prove the transcendence of the Godhead. The apostles were not declaring the preeminence of God, which would have been superfluous, but of a man, which was necessary.
Those first Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth, a man they knew, had been raised to a position of Lordship over the universe. He was still their friend, still one of them, but had left them for a while to appear in the presence of God on their behalf. And the proof of this was the presence of the Holy Spirit among them.
One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology. We think of Christ as God but fail to conceive of Him as a man glorified. To recapture the power of the Early Church we must believe what they believed. And they believed they had a God-approved man representing them in heaven.
Man: The Dwelling Place of God
“When the Sanhedrin saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Our lives will be remarkable to the degree we have been with Jesus; to the measure with which we’re filled up with the Holy Spirit. It does tend to astonish when the hand of a Man, thought to be long-dead, reaches out through us; when His Spirit animates an unconquerable twinkling in our eyes.
The Holy Spirit knows what Jesus wants you to do next. Listening to the voice of the Spirit, within you, is the same thing as sitting next to Jesus, upon the Throne, and asking Him: “What should I do?”
The Holy Spirit is His voice; His answer.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are everywhere and nowhere: their only conspicuousness is atmospheric; they are otherwise totally hidden. They do good deeds because the Christ within them does them; they feel embarrassed whenever the eyes of men see them. Their works are so synonymous with their enjoyment of abiding in Jesus that they’re surprised at the work their life accomplishes. Their only reward has been the good pleasure of His presence. And that has always been enough for them.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are constantly communicating with its King: they are thinking their best and highest thoughts directly to Him. They love to stand and pray, to sit and pray, to drive and pray, to rest and pray, to work and pray: they live in prayer. Their inner life is their cathedral: they meet together with Jesus in its sanctuary, its apses, its towers, its belfries. Unembarrassed, they acknowledge their reliance on His delight; they delight to talk to Him, to hear from Him, as such:
As their perfect Lord, their Heavenly Father, infinitely far removed in the splendors of the Throneroom, who is yet with them;
As the King of a Kingdom with verifiable work to do; whose will is the Father’s; whose climate is of Heaven;
As the Provider-God;
The One who perfectly modeled perfect, personal forgiveness;
As the Shepherd of His sheep; as the Protector from all evil; as the Lord of all Heaven, all power, all glory.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are happiest when hungriest: they are satisfied with a sating only offered to them by His hand. They find their joy in eating and drinking of Him. That is their secret. He has become their only diet. (from Mt. 6:1-13, 16-18)