Walking With God

Runners? Joggers? Walkers? Which category best describes your pace physically?

How about spiritually? In the midst of Genesis 5 as the author unpacks the ‘wages of sin’ namely ‘death,’ we find a marvellous ray of hope. ‘Enoch walked with God; then he was no more because God took him away.’ (Genesis 5:24)

He walked with God. That seems to indicate relationship, does it not? A daily, paced engagement with his Creator. More details are discovered in the surrounding context. ‘Enoch walked with God 300 years…’ We are not talking a 10-minute stroll, even a walking marathon. We’re looking at a lifetime of moving forward with God.

In today’s poem, Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739) expresses his sentiment that he too might walk with God. We have limited information on this poet/hymn writer. This poem speaks volumes of the heart of a man who took seriously the invitation, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…’

Alas, my God, that we should be Such strangers to each other!

O that as friends we might agree, And walk and talk together!

May I taste that communion, Lord, Thy people have with thee?

Thy Spirit daily talks with them, O let it talk with me!  (Correction – the Holy Spirit should be referred to as ‘he’ not ‘it.’)

Like Enoch, let me walk with God, And thus walk out my day,

Attended with the heavenly guards Upon the King’s highway.

When wilt thou come unto me, Lord? O come, my Lord most dear!

Come near, come nearer, nearer still: I’m well when thou art near.

There’s no such thing as pleasure here; My JESUS is my all:

As thou dost shine or disappear, My pleasures rise and fall.

When wilt thou come unto me, Lord? For, till thou dost appear,

I count each moment for a day, Each minute for a year.

Yesterday, I spent time over a lunch hour with a group of pastors and learned updates about three leaders who are ‘walking out their day’ with cancer or other serious medical issues. Each one unique. Each one facing a staggering amount of treatment. Each one passionate to walk with God faithfully to the end of their journey. As one of the pastors, whose wife is seriously ill, reminded us, ‘When you’re travelling down a road, often there are stop signs. They may come up unexpectedly, but they are there. ‘My wife,’ he said, ‘has been told by medical personnel where ‘her stop sign’ is located.’ The truth is, our times are in God’s hands!

May we ‘redeem the time’ which God entrusts to us. As Paul urged the Galatian believers, ‘Walk by the Spirit,’ (Galatians 5:16). To the Corinthians, he declared, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Cor. 5:7).

Join me in prayerfully singing (and living out) this hymn today…

O Master, let me walk with thee
in lowly paths of service free;
tell me thy secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Help me the slow of heart to move
by some clear, winning word of love;
teach me the wayward feet to stay,
and guide them in the homeward way.
Teach me thy patience; still with thee
in closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong;
In hope that sends a shining ray
far down the future’s broadening way,
in peace that only thou canst give,
with thee, O Master, let me live.

The Invitation

Now here’s a poem that will prompt some thinking. How desperately do you want God’s help? How available is He to those who ‘diligently seek Him?’ (Hebrews 11:6)

Lord, what unvalued pleasures crowned

The days of old;

When thou were so familiar found,

Those days were gold;–

When Abram wished thou couldst afford

With him to feast;

When Lot but said, ‘Turn in, my Lord,’

Thou were his guest.

But, ah! this heart of mine doth pant,

And beat for thee;

Yet thou art strange, and wilt not grant

Thyself to me.

What, shall thy people be so dear

To thee no more?

Or is not heaven to earth as near

As heretofore?

The famished raven’s hoarser cry

Finds out thine ear;

My soul is famished, and I die

Unless thou hear.

O thou great ALPHA! King of kings

Or bow to me,

Or lend my soul seraphic wings,

To get to thee.

Anonymous – 17th century

This poem was also transformed into a hymn in 1866.

The pages of Scripture contain the accounts of men and women, young and old who met God. Their circumstances were diverse, their challenges many but they encountered God.

Jesus promises in the Sermon on the Mount that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. I recall years ago, on a trip to Israel, our guide pointing out a deer panting by the side of the road in the desert through which our bus was traveling. He pressed our group to identify the Scripture which this scene brought to mind. It wasn’t long before we collectively cited ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?’ (Psalm 42:1,2)

May we find our thirsty souls quenched this day by the Fountain of Living Water.

Wrestling Jacob

Charles Wesley had an insatiable appetite for writing. His treasury of poems and hymns provided for the church a great wealth of material.

Today’s poem is penned by him and is entitled, “Wrestling Jacob.” It finds a scriptural basis in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestled with the angel throughout the night and ended up with a name change as he persisted in pleading for a blessing.

Come, O thou Traveller unknown,

I need not tell thee who I am,

My misery, or sin declare,

Thyself has called me by my name,

Look on thy hands, and read it there,

But who, I ask thee, who art thou?

Tell me thy name, and tell me how.

In vain thou strugglest to get free,

I never will unloose my hold:

Art thou the Man who died for me?

The secret of thy love unfold.

Wrestling I will not let thee go,

Till I thy name, thy nature know…

What though my shrinking flesh complain,

And murmur to contend so long,

I rise superior to my pain,

When I am weak then I am strong,

And when my all of strength shall fail,

I shall with the God-Man prevail…

I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,

Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;

Nor wilt thou with the night depart,

But stay, and love me to the end;

Thy mercies never shall remove,

Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Prayer is a process of wrestling with God, is it not? Are we part of the company of Hebrews 11:6 where God promises to reward ‘those who diligently seek Him?’

May we this day, resolve with Jacob to prayerfully plead with God for His intervention in our lives. If, as Jesus declared, ‘we can do nothing’ (John 15), then let us plead with God for the resources to do His will!

“I will not let you go until you  bless me.” God heard Jacob’s plea and rewarded him accordingly.

I turn your thoughts, in closing, back to the words of Fanny Crosby’s plea –

Pass me not, O gentle Savior, Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
Let me at Thy throne of mercy, Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition, Help my unbelief.
Trusting only in Thy merit, Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit, Save me by Thy grace.
Thou the spring of all my comfort, More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee, Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

The painting connected with this post is by Bartholomeus Breenburgh (1598-1657) and is entitled ‘Jacob Wrestling With The Angel.’

 

The Divine Guest

My spirit longeth for thee Within my troubled breast;

Although I be unworthy Of so divine a Guest.

Of so divine a Guest, Unworthy though I be;

Yet has my heart no rest, Unless it comes from thee.

Unless it comes from thee, In vain I look around:

In all that I can see, No rest is to be found.

No rest is to be found, But in thy blessed love;

O, let my wish be crowned, And send it from above.

I have been a guest in a variety of homes and perhaps you have too. I have experienced hospitality and sacrificial service from many of God’s people in the form of meals, snacks, cool and hot beverages and just a quiet place to rest.

Today’s poem, penned by John Byrom (1692-1763)  has also been adapted as a Christian hymn expressing a deep desire for a close, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to have Christ ‘dwell in our hearts through faith?’ Ephesians 3:14-21 contains Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian congregation for this very request. Kneeling before the Father, this pastoral leader, pleads that God, out of His glorious riches, would strengthen the believers with power by the Holy Spirit resulting in Jesus Christ dwelling in their hearts.

Robert Boyd Munger, a Presbyterian minister and professor at Fuller Theological Seminarysought to ‘flesh’ out this idea in a sermon he penned in 1954.  The deliberate act of submission of one’s entire life to the will of God is an ongoing call for the child of God. Are we ever done ‘repenting?’ Have we ever ‘submitted’ once and for all? No! Daily we  must offer our bodies as living sacrifices as a reasonable act of worship in view of God’s generous mercies to us.

Though fictional, I think Robert Boyd Munger has carefully sought to apply the truth of Christ’s  rightful ruler over every aspect of his life. While you may disagree with some of his analogy, what process of daily surrender do you engage in as your response? I personally don’t think one sermon, one insightful devotional time, one engaging conference will conclude the process of ‘learning to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.’ (as the Great Commission demands!)

My Heart, Christ’s Home
by Robert Boyd Munger

One evening I invited Jesus Christ into my heart
and what an entrance He made!  It was not a
spectacular emotional thing, but very real.

Something happened at the very center of my life
that night.  He came into the darkness of my heart
and turned on the light.  He built a fire on the hearth
and banished the chill.  He started music where there
had been stillness, and He filled the emptiness with
His own loving, wonderful fellowship.  I have never
regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will.

In the joy of this new relationship, I said to Jesus,
“Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours.

I want to have You settle down
here and be perfectly at home.
Everything I have belongs to You.
Let me show you around.”

The Study

The first room was the Study – the Library.
In my home, this room of the mind is a very small
room with very thick walls.  But it is a very important
room.  In a sense, it is the control room of the house.

He entered with me and looked around at the books in the
bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on
the walls.  As I followed His gaze, I became uncomfortable.

Strangely, I had not felt self conscious about
it before, but now that He was there looking
at these things, I was very embarrassed.

Some books were there that His eyes were too pure
to behold.  On the table were a few magazines
that a Christian had no business reading.

As for the pictures on the walls, the imaginations and
thoughts of the mind, some of these were shameful.

Red-faced, I turned to Him and said, “Master, I know
that this room needs to be cleaned up and made over.
Will You help me make it what it ought to be?”

He said, “Certainly, I’m glad to help you.  First of all,
take all the things that you are reading and looking
at, which are not helpful, pure, good and true,
and throw them out.  Fill the library with My
Word and meditate on it day and night.

As for the pictures on the walls, you will have
difficulty controlling these images, but I have
something that will help.”  He gave me a full-sized
portrait of Himself, and said, “Hang this
centrally on the wall of your mind.”

I did just that and have discovered through the years,
that when my thoughts are centered upon Christ Himself,
His Purity and Power cause impure thoughts to back away.
So, He has helped me to bring my thoughts under His control.

The Dining Room

From the Study, we went into the Dining Room,
the room of appetites and desires.  I spent a lot of
time and hard work there trying to satisfy my wants.
I said to Him, “This is my favorite room.  I am quite
sure You will be pleased with what we serve.”

He seated Himself at the table with me and asked,
“What is on the menu for dinner?”  I said, “Well, my
favorite dishes; money, academic degrees and stocks,
with newspaper articles of fame and fortune as side
dishes.”  These were the things I liked – secular fare.

When the food was placed before Him, He said nothing,
but I observed that He did not eat it.  I said to Him,
“Master, don’t You care for this food?  What’s the trouble?”

He answered, “I have food to eat that you do not know of.
If you want food that really satisfies you, do the Will of
the Father.  Stop seeking your own pleasures, desires and
satisfactions.  Seek to please Him.  The food will satisfy you.”

There at the table, He gave me a taste of joy of
doing God’s Will.  What a flavor!  There is no
food like it in all the world.  It alone satisfies.

The Living Room

From the Dining Room, we walked into the Living Room.
This room was intimate and comfortable.  I liked it.  It had a
fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a sofa and a quiet atmosphere.

He said, “This is indeed a delightful room.  Let us come here
often.  It is secluded and quiet and we can fellowship together.”

Well, as a young Christian, I was thrilled.  I couldn’t think
of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes
with Christ alone in close companionship.

He promised, “I will be here early every morning.
Meet me here and we will start the day together.”

So morning after morning, I would come downstairs
to the Living Room.  He would take a book of the Bible
from the case.  We would open it and read together.
He would unfold to me the wonder of God’s Saving
Truths.  My heart sang as He shared His Love and
Grace for me.  These were wonderful times!

However, little by little, under the pressure of many
responsibilities, this time began to be shortened.

Why, I am not sure.  I thought I was too busy to spend
regular time with Christ.  This was not intentional,
you understand.  It just happened that way.

Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to
miss days now and then.  Urgent matters would crowd
out the quiet times of conversation I had with Jesus.

I remember one morning running downstairs, eager to
be on my way.  I passed the Living Room and noticed
that the door was open.  Looking in, I saw a fire
in the fireplace and Jesus was sitting there.

Suddenly in dismay I thought to myself, “He is my
guest.  I invited Him into my heart.  He has come as
my Saviour and friend, and yet I am neglecting Him.”

I stopped, turned and hesitantly went in.  With
a downcast glance I said, “Master, forgive me.
Have You been here all these mornings?”

“Yes, I told you I would be here every morning to meet
with you.  Remember, I love you.  I have redeemed you
at great cost.  I value your fellowship.  Even if you cannot
keep the quiet time for your own sake, do it for mine.”

The truth that Christ desires my companionship, that
He wants me to be with Him and waits for me, has done
more to transform my quiet time with God, than any
other single fact.  Don’t let Christ wait alone in the
Living Room of your heart, but find the time to be
with Him every day, with your Bible and in prayer.

The Work Room

Before long, He asked, “Do you have a Work Room in your
home?”  Out in the garage of the home of my heart, I had
a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much
with it.  Once in a while, I would play around with a few
little gadgets, but I wasn’t producing anything substantial.

I led Him out there.  He looked over the workbench
and said, “Well, this is quite well furnished.  What are
you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?”

He looked at one or two little toys that I had thrown
together on the bench and held one up to me.  “Is this the
sort of thing you are doing for others in your Christian life?”

“Well,” I said, “Lord, I know it isn’t much, and
I really want to do better, but I don’t seem
to have the strength or the skill to do more.”

He said, “Alright, relax in me and let my Spirit work
through you.  I know that you are unskilled, clumsy
and awkward, but the Holy Spirit is the Master
Workman, and when He controls your hands
and your heart, He can work through you.”

Stepping around behind me and putting His great strong
hands under mine, He held the tools in His skilled
fingers and began the work in me.  The more I relaxed
and trusted Him, the more He was able to do with my life.

The Recreation Room

He asked me if I had a Recreation Room where I went’
for fun and fellowship.  I was hoping He would not ask
about that.  There were certain associations and
activities that I wanted to keep for myself.

One evening when I was on my way out with some
of my buddies, He stopped me with a glance and
asked, “Are you going out?”  “Yes,” I replied.
“Good,” He said, “I would like to go with you.”

I answered rather awkwardly, “Oh, Lord Jesus,
I don’t think You would really enjoy where we are
going.  Let’s go out together tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night we will go to a Bible class at
Church, but tonight I have another appointment.”

“I’m sorry,” Jesus said.  “I thought that when I came
into your home, we were going to do everything
together, to be close companions.  I just want
you to know that I am willing to go with you.”

That evening I spent some miserable hours.
I felt rotten.  What kind of friend was I to Jesus,
deliberately leaving Him out of my life, doing things
and going places that I knew very well He would not enjoy?

When I returned that night there was a light on in His room,
and I went up to talk it over with Him.  I said, “Lord, I have
learned my lesson.  I know now that I cannot have a good time
without You.  From now on, we will do everything together.”

Then we went down into the recreation room of the
house.  He transformed it.  He brought new friends,
new excitement, new joys.  Laughter and music
have been ringing through the house every since.

The Hall Closet

One day I found Him waiting for me at the door.  An arresting
look was in His eyes.  As I entered, He said to me, “There
is a peculiar odor in the house.  Something must be dead
around here.  It’s upstairs.  I think it is in the hall closet.”

As soon as He said this, I knew what He was talking
about.  There was a small closet up there on the hall
landing, just a few feet square.  In that closet, behind
lock and key, I had one or two little personal things
that I did not want anyone to know about.

Certainly, I did not want Christ to see them.  I knew they
were dead and rotting things left over from my old life.
I knew they were still there, but I was afraid to admit it.

Reluctantly, I went up with Him, and as we mounted the
stairs, the odor became stronger and stronger.  He pointed
to the door.  I was angry.  That’s the only way I can put it.
I had given Him access to the library, the dining room, the
living room, the work room, the recreation room, and now
He was asking me about a little 2×4 closet.  I said to myself,
“This is too much.  I am not going to give Him the key.”

“Well,” He said, reading my thoughts.  “If you think
I am going to stay up here on the second floor with
this smell, you are mistaken.  I will go out on the
porch.”  Then I saw Him start down the stairs.

When one comes to know and love Christ,
the worse thing that can happen is to sense Him
withdrawing His fellowship.  I had to give in.

“I’ll give You the key,” I said sadly,
“but You will have to open the closet and
clean it out, I haven’t the strength to do it.”

“Just give Me the key,” He said.  “Authorize
Me to take care of that closet, and I will.”

With trembling fingers, I passed the key to Him.
He took it, walked over to the door, opened it,
entered, took out all the putrefying stuff that
was rotting there, and threw it away.  Then
He cleaned the closet and painted it.
It was all done in a moment’s time.

Oh, what victory and release to have
that dead thing out of my life!

Transferring The Title

Then a thought came to me.  “Lord, will You take
over the management of the whole house and
operate it for me as You did that closet?  Will You
take my life and make it what it ought to be?”

His Face lit up as he replied, “I’d love to!  That is what
I want to do.  You cannot be a victorious Christian in
your own strength.  Let me do it through you and
for you.  That is the only way.  But, right now I
have no authority to proceed since I am
just a guest and the property isn’t mine.”

Dropping to my knees, I said, “Lord, You have been
a guest and I have been the host.  But from now
on, I am going to be the servant.  I want
You to be the owner and the Master.”

Running as fast as I could to the strongbox, I took out the
title deed to the house describing its’ assets and liabilities,
location and situation.  I eagerly signed the house over to Him
alone for time and eternity.  “Here,” I said, “Here it is, all that
I am and all that I have, forever.  I want you to run this home.
I will remain safely with you and be your servant and friend.”

Wow!  Things sure are different since Jesus Christ
settled down and made His Home in my heart!

No matter what happens in my life, there is nothing
to compare to resting safely in the arms of Jesus!

 

In CHRIST Alone

‘In Christ alone, my hope is found…’  has to be one of my favourite current hymns. It captures the essence of what the Christian faith is all about.

The Apostle Peter nailed it, didn’t he, when he was given the option to leave Jesus Christ. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we believe and are sure that you are the Christ…’ John 6:68 

Not everyone accepts this or even understands the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the hope He alone offers to sinners.  Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was one person who did. Her reflection led her to pen the following poem –

None Other Lamb

None other Lamb, none other Name,

None other Hope in heaven or earth or sea,

None other Hiding-place from guilt and shame,

None beside thee.

My faith burns low, my hope burns low

Only my heart’s desire cries out in me

By the deep thunder of its want and woe

Cries out to thee.

Lord, thou art Life tho’ I be dead,

Love’s Fire thou art, however cold I be:

Nor heaven have I, nor place to lay my heard,

Nor home, but thee.

Jesus – the only source of genuine love, mercy, grace, peace, forgiveness, grace… Shall I continue?

Jesus – the name above every name, the name before whom every knee shall bow, the name of authority, wisdom, power… Shall I continue?

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…

My hope is in the Lord who gave Himself for me…

In Christ alone…

Now matter how you sing it or say it the truth remains – To care for my sin, there is no other sacrifice except the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Sola Deo Gloria

 

No Coming to God without Christ

Have you ever heard of Robert Herrick (1591-1674)? I had not before I found today’s poem penned in the 17th century. The title of the poem reflects John 14:6 where Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.’

On this Lord’s Day, June 10th, 2018, read this poem. Why not share it with someone else as a reminder of the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and people.

No Coming to God without Christ

Good and great God! How should I fear

To come to thee, if Christ not there!

Could I but think, he would not be

Present, to plead my cause for me;

To Hell I’d rather run, than I

Would see thy face, and he not by.

Robert Herrick has expressed in 52 words the hope of every genuine child of God. “…For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  “But if anyone sins, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defence (an Advocate), Jesus Christ the righteous.” (I John 2:1b

What is your hope built upon this day?

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…   On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

Let’s sing the praise of Christ! Let’s worship the Son of God! Let’s rejoice in such a Saviour. There is no coming to God without Christ! Amen and Amen!

 

 

A New Hymn For Solitude

Some of us don’t have much solitude. We allow ourselves to be interrupted with Social Media ‘breaking posts’ ‘tweets’ ‘Instagram updates’ etc.  A professor who teaches spiritual disciplines has told me the assignments for silence and solitude are some of the most difficult for students to complete.

Today’s poem from A Treasury of Christian Poetry is entitled ‘A New Hymn for Solitude.’ No comments, no interpretation today, just the poem.  Read it carefully and let Edward Dowden 1843-1913 speak truth into your life.

 

I found thee in my heart, O Lord, As in some secret shrine;

I knelt, I waited for thy word, I joyed to name thee mine.

 

I feared to give myself away To that or this; beside

Thy altar on my face I lay, And in strong need I cried.

 

Those hours are past. Thou art, not mine, And therefore I rejoice,

I wait within no holy shrine, I faint not for the voice.

 

In thee we live, and every wind Of heaven is thine; blown free

To west, to east, the God unshrined Is still covering me.

 

Digging deeper into the depths of Scripture…

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