Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

-John Newton

I was blessed by this article that I ran across along with this song:
The Lord truly answered Newton’s prayer for grace and faith, but grace and faith do not equal immediate subdued sin and rest for the Christian. Rather, the Lord answered Newton’s prayer by breaking him and graciously leading him to trust Him. This poem cuts to the heart of many issues in the Christian’s life. All too often we think, if we could just have relief from this one besetting sin, we would be more holy or we would be free to trust God more. Rather than thinking like this, we need to be asking God for broken hearts, hearts that are contrite and humble before him (Ps 51). A corollary to these requests means we need to be completely open to how God will answer these prayers. He is the sovereign Lord, and if he deems necessary, he will employ inward trials to make us more dependent on Him, to make us more like Jesus.
-John Fraiser (emphasis added)

How many times do we beg God for some great fruit of the spirit.... “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith...” (Galatians 5:22) and then recoil with shock and horror when He sends trials and affliction our way. If we are truly seeking these spiritual fruits, may we be willing to pay the price of what we desire, and find our all in HIM!


"Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?"
- Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Who Is The Greatest?

Often times I think of the greatest people being those that are out on the forefront of the battle.  The fiery preacher, the traveling evangelist, the great missionary.  But I had to again think of the words that our Lord spoke to his disciples in the 9th chapter of Mark.  Typical humans, the disciples had gotten carried away arguing who was the greatest and best follower of Christ.  Jesus sat them all down and gave them a very basic object lesson.  He placed a child in their midst, and said: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” Mark 9:35-37

Such a powerful lesson.  I know that we all know (in our heads) that the greatest people aren’t necessarily those out in the forefront, but I think sometimes we forget what the phrase “a Minister of the Gospel” means.  The Oxford American Dictionary defines the word simply:  “attending to the needs of others.”  Simply a servant.  And if you back up even farther, the word Christian means “a follower of Christ,” and if we are truly following His example, we are going to be serving others.

I have also often felt the misconception that Jesus was popular.  Well, he drew big crowds, didn’t he?  He had to run away just to get some prayer-time in...  So popularity is not too bad, eh?   Well, I have had to ask myself: “How popular was Christ when he was hanging on the cross?  What celebrity would the crowds allow him (virtually on a whim) to be crucified?  If Christ was so popular, why didn’t the masses intervene on his behalf?  Even his disciples fled; his trusted friends.  Is this the iconic view of a “great” person?

Maybe God has called you as a prayer warrior, maybe he’s simply called you to serve your elderly neighbor.  Maybe your current ministry is something as “lowly” as simply shining as a light in your sin-darkened workplace.  Does it make any difference to God?  Does he determine our “greatness” by how many people around the world know of our “Christian prowess?”  As God so clearly told Samuel at the anointing of King David: “...Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7  True greatness is based completely upon our lives bringing glory and honor to God.

So the next time you find yourself envying those Christians that get all the “press,” maybe its time to reevaluate what we are running the race for.  Is it for God’s glory, or our own?

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“Does the place you’re called to labor

Seem too small and little known?

It is great if God is in it,

And He’ll not forget His own.

Little is much when God is in it!

Labor not for wealth or fame.

There’s a crown—and you can win it,

If you go in Jesus’ Name.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dying To Self

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught,
and you do not sting and hurt at the oversight,
but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ; 
that is dying to self. 

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed,
your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed,
and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart 
or even defend yourself, but take all in patient loving silence; 
that is dying to self. 

When you quietly forbear any disorder, any irregularity,
any impunctuality, or any annoyance;
when you can stand face to face with waste, folly,
extravagance, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it; 
that is dying to self. 

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment,
any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God; 
that is dying to self. 

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation,
or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation;
when you can truly love to be unknown, 
that is dying to self

When you can receive correction and reproof from one
of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly
as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or 
resentment rising up within your heart, 
that is dying to self.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20