Shadows And Light

Have you ever been afraid? Even scared half to death? Once there was the biggest, lumpiest, scariest monster hunched in my room just waiting to pounce on me! My mouth was so dry that I couldn’t even call out for help. Finally, I got enough moisture in my mouth to be able to yell out, “DAD!!” When my Dad came into my room and turned on the light, the monster disappeared. But right where he had been waiting to pounce on me was my desk chair with a hoodie hanging on the back. 

Sometimes we’re scared because of what we don’t see clearly or can’t fully understand because there’s not enough light for us to make out the details. 

On the night Jesus was born, an angel announced the news of His birth to some nearby shepherds. The angel was coming with good news, but Luke writes that the shepherds were terrified! I like the picturesque language of the King James Version that says they were “sore afraid,” as if they shook so much it made them sore!  

Why were they so terrified? I think it’s because they knew that when angels show up that means God Himself is close by! In fact, Luke emphasized that it was an angel of the Lord who shone with the glory of the Lord. 

For their entire lives, these shepherds had been trying to live by the law. They had been told that this is what would make them acceptable to God. The law told them how to live, and how to make things right with God if they broke a law. If they didn’t make things right, God would punish them. So perhaps they were sore afraid because they weren’t ready to meet God. 

But the angel told them something unexpected: Today your Savior has been born! A Savior, not a Judge! 

This is what God promised through one of His prophets: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  

The writer of Hebrews said all of the laws were just a “shadow of what is in heaven” (Hebrews 8:5). This shadow was the source of fear, but now Jesus had come as the Light of the world and as our Savior. Jesus came to take away the penalty of sin: Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant (Hebrews 9:15). 

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Faithful told how a man came and beat him because he had broken the law. Even when Faithful begged for mercy the man said, “I don’t know how to show mercy to anyone.” This man was Moses the Lawgiver. 

Faithful explained what finally gave him relief: “He would have finished me off, but then one came by, and told him to stop. I did not know Him at first, but as He went by, I saw the holes in His hands and in His side and I concluded that He was Jesus.” 

The Advent of Jesus was to let the punishment for breaking the law fall on Him instead of us! 

The Law says, “Clean yourself up first and then you can come to God. But if you miss anything, God will bring down the hammer of His judgment!” Jesus says, “Come to Me just as you are. If you ask Me, I will forgive your sins. I’ll clothe you in My robe of righteousness so you can stand faultless and unafraid before God” (see Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:26-27).  

This is very Good News indeed! It means we can join in the song of the angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests. 

Poetry Saturday—Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed,
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race;
and the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

This is He whom heav’n-taught singers
sang of old with one accord,
whom the Scriptures of the prophets
promised in their faithful word;
now He shines, the long expected;
let creation praise its Lord,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heav’n, adore Him;
angel hosts, His praises sing:
all dominions, bow before Him
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev’ry voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and unwearied praises be,
honor, glory, and dominion
and eternal victory,
evermore and evermore! —Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

Poetry Saturday—Growing Old

They call it “going down the hill” when we are growing old,
And speak with mournful accents when our tale is nearly told;
They sigh when talking of the past, the days that used to be,
As if the future were not bright with immortality.
 
But it is not going down; ‘tis climbing high and higher,
Until we almost see the mountain that our souls desire;
For if the natural eye grows dim it is but dim to earth,
While the eye of faith grows keener to discern the Savior’s worth.
 
Who would exchange for shooting blade the waving golden grain?
Or, when the corn is fully ripe, would wish it green again?
And who would wish the hoary head, found in the way of truth
To be again encircled in the sunny locks of youth?
 
 
For though, in truth, the outward man must perish and decay,
The inward man shall be renewed by grace from day to day;
Those who are planted by the Lord, unshaken in their root,
Shall in their old age flourish and bring forth their choicest fruit.
 
It is not years that make men old; the spirit may be young,
Though fully threescore years and ten the wheels of life have run.
God has Himself recorded, in His blessed Word of truth,
That they who wait upon the Lord shall even renew their youth.
 
And when the eye, now dim, shall open to behold the King,
And ears now dull with age shall hear the harps of Heaven ring,
And on the head now hoary shall be placed the crown of gold,
Then shall be known the lasting joy of never growing old. —Anonymous

Jesus Says

Jesus says, “I will… 

…make you fishers of men” (Matthew 7:23; Mark 1:17) 

…acknowledge in Heaven those who acknowledge Me on earth” (Matthew 10:32-33) 

…give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) 

…build My church” (Matthew 16:18) 

…give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19) 

…show you whom you should fear” (Luke 12:5) 

…drive out demons and heal people” (Luke 13:32) 

…never drive away those who come to Me” (John 6:37) 

…give My life for your life” (John 6:51) 

…rise again from the dead” (Matthew 27:63; Mark 14:28; John 2:19) 

…raise up believers to eternal life” (John 6:40, 44, 54) 

…come back to take you to be with Me forever” (John 14:3) 

…do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 14; 16:28) 

…not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18) 

…ask the Father to give you an Advocate” (John 14:18) 

…give you words and wisdom that are irresistible” (Luke 21:15) 

…see you again and give you eternal joy” (John 16:22)

Oh, what a Savior!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Navel-Gazing?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Navel-Gazing?

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bid to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the psalmist: ‘My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up’ (Psalm 5:3). And again, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?’ (121:1). If it is right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of His glory! …  

     The truth is, there’s nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven. But they went a little further than looking—they stood gazing. A little excess in right may be faulty. … There is a gazing that is not commendable. This is when the look becomes not that of reverent worship but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should not be known, a prying into that which it is for God’s glory to conceal. … 

     Thus certain things that you and I may do appear right and yet we may need to be chided out of them into something better—they may be right in themselves but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable or expedient. They may be right up to a point and then may touch the boundary of excess.

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

The word gazing reminds of another word: navel-gazing. The dictionary defines this as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” This “excessive absorption” is, I believe, what caused the angels to chide the disciples of Jesus.  

Jesus was always on the move. Even His times of rest and recovery were strategic so that He could engage in ministry refreshed and refilled to do spiritual warfare effectively. The Gospels never show us a picture of Jesus wondering what to do next, or concerned about what people thought of Him, or even strategizing over His next ministry opportunities. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward. 

And this same forward momentum is exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples to undertake. “You will move forward into all the world, telling people about Me, baptizing them, and commissioning them to also be forward-looking to their mission field.” This mission was to be preceded by the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was a 2-mile walk away from were the disciples were now gazing up into the heavens. 

The angels essentially said, “Your curiosity is on the verge of becoming procrastination. It’s time to head back to Jerusalem to wait for the empowerment that you will need to fulfill the mission on which Jesus sent you.” 

What about us? What “looking” can become unhealthy “gazing” for us? What excuses might we be making for our navel-gazing? What’s keeping us from being on-mission for Jesus? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have anything less than forward momentum for the sake of the Kingdom of God! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Are You Gazing Or Going?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Are You Gazing Or Going?

     The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory! Equally delightful is the remembrance of His ascension. …

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11) 

     It is not the Lord’s will that [His disciples] should long remain inactive—the reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough, for the angel’s words may be accurately rendered, ‘Why do you stand gazing up into heaven’? … 

     As they had once said to the women, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6), so did they now say, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ …

     They do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, ‘Tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:49). They seem to say, ‘The taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about. He has gone to His throne and to His glory, and He said it was expedient for us that He should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father….

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was incarnated in human flesh so that we could know the way to Heaven. 

Jesus died on a Cross so that we could have our sins forgiven and go to Heaven. 

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could go to prepare a place for us. 

Jesus wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can take others to Heaven with us. 

Let us not imitate the disciples’ first reaction and simply gaze into Heaven hopefully and longingly after the ascended Jesus. Instead, let us imitate their next reactions: Waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so that we can take the Good News of salvation everywhere we can!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Sweeter And Sweeter

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Sweeter And Sweeter

Therefore, to you who believe, [Jesus] is precious. (1 Peter 2:7)

     The preciousness of Christ is connected in the Scriptures with a believing people. The Bible never expects that without faith men will glorify Christ. For, dear brothers and sisters, it is by faith that the value of Christ is perceived. You cannot see Christ by mere reason, for the natural man is blind to the things of the Spirit. You may study the evangelists themselves, but you will never get to see the real Christ who is precious to believers except by a personal act of faith in Him. …  An ounce of faith is better than a ton of learning! … 

     By faith the Lord Jesus is more and more tasted and proved and becomes more and more precious. In proportion as we taste our Lord, He will rise in our esteem. … The more afflictions a believer endures, the more he discovers the sustaining power of Christ, and therefore the more precious Christ becomes to him. … 

     Every time you give way to skepticism and critical questioning, you lose a sip of sweetness.

From Christ Precious To Believers

Oh, how sweet Jesus is! 

Have you tasted and discovered this for yourself?

I just keep falling in love with Him
Over and over and over and over again
I keep falling in love with Him
Over and over and over and over again
He gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by
Oh what a love between my Lord and I
I keep falling in love with Him

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Unspeakable Gift

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Unspeakable Gift

Therefore, to you who believe, [Jesus] is precious. (1 Peter 2:7)

     We can never say enough of God’s unspeakable gift! On any other subject there is a danger of exaggeration, but it is impossible here. If you find honey, it is well to eat cautiously of it, for it may pall upon you. But when you find Christ, take in all you can and pray for an enlarged capacity, for He will never grow too sweet. …  

     Let every one of us do something fresh by which to prove the believer’s love to Christ! Let us not be satisfied with proof already given. Let us invent a new love token! Let us sing to the Lord a new song! Let not this cold world dare to doubt that to believers Christ is precious! Let us force the scoffers to believe that we are in earnest!

From Christ Precious To Believers

When was the last time you were amazed at something new you discovered about Jesus? The apostle Paul prayed that our hearts would continue to expand into the height, depth, breadth, and width of His fullness. 

When was the last time you sang a new love song to Jesus? He is singing over you, and He would love to hear your original love song to Him as well. 

Over the mountains and seas
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free

I’m happy to be in the Truth
And I will daily lift my voice
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

I could sing of Your love forever! 

Oh, I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness, I know
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy
Like we’re dancing now

I could sing of Your love forever!

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