Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The refrain of an old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, has been running through my mind frequently in the past month or so.  We haven’t sung it in our church in years, and I couldn’t find it in the church’s hymnal.  But, thankfully I was able to find it on the Internet.  According to the information I found, it was written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

These words remind me that when the cares of this world weigh heavily on me, the solution is to turn to Jesus.  I should cast not only my eyes, but also my thoughts, on Jesus.  When I focus on Jesus and what He has done for me, the burdens of life are lessened.  Jesus told us, “In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33    And Peter reminded us to, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

When God Sends Hardships Our Way

Hardships are a fact of life that we prefer to avoid.  We ask God to send blessings our way and to keep hardships far from us.  When hardships do come, we tend to blame them on the devil.  But, have you ever stopped to think the God might have sent hardship your way?

This reality hit home recently as I read Genesis 15.  This is the chapter where God promises Abram that He will make him a great nation and that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  Yet, in the same breath, God tells Abram that the his children will be enslaved in Egypt.

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.'”  Genesis 15:5

“Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  Genesis 15:13, 14

“But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:16

Stop and think about this for a minute.  Is that the kind of promise you want for your unborn children:  They will be enslaved for 400 years.  I might have been tempted to tell God that I was just fine without children.  But, Abraham didn’t.  He believed God would supply him with many descendants and that God would bless them through the hardships that would come their way.

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In Exodus, we see this promise fulfilled.  When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand His people be set free, Pharaoh made life harder for the Israelites.  As Pharaoh continued to ignore Moses’ warnings, God encouraged Moses that He was in control and that these things were happening so that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7:5)

Later Moses tells Pharaoh that the plagues are being sent so “that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:10).  In Exodus 10:1- 2, God encourages Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Through the hardships of enslavement that the Israelites endured, God showed His mighty power and instilled in them that He is the Lord God almighty.  The Israelites grew to be a mighty nation and left Egypt with great wealth. When they left Egypt, there was no doubt in the minds of the Egyptians that the God of Israel is the one true God.

God allowed the hardship of slavery to come to the Israelites to bring glory to Himself and to spread His fame throughout the world.  God’s fame was still being talked about forty years later when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land and spies were sent out Jericho. Rahab told the spies, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt….And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”  (Joshua 2: 10, 11)

As God has revealed to me that He uses hardships for His glory and His purposes, I have become more willing to pray that God bring into my life whatever circumstances will glorify Him and draw my unsaved loved ones to Him.

By Faith…

The 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews is an honor roll of the Patriarchs of Israel. In this chapter Paul lists many of the fathers and mothers of Israel and describes what they were able to accomplish through faith in God and by looking forward to the hope of the Messiah yet to come. As I was turning to another chapter of Hebrews, I noticed an old comment that I had written in the margin of my Bible. It said, “By faith, Susan…” I don’t recall what preacher suggested that the congregation make that notation in their Bibles, but I am certain that he or she was encouraging Christians to read this passage with our hearts and minds open to what God wants to accomplish in us through faith. Seeing the comment prompted me to read Hebrews 11 with a fresh perspective.

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The chapter begins with a very familiar verse, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) I have heard and quoted that verse numerous times, yet I rarely give proper consideration to the next verse. Yesterday it was the one that really resonated with me. Hebrews 11:2 says, “For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good testimony.” As a Christian who seeks to honor God with my life, I want to obtain ‘a good testimony.’ So I read through the first half of Hebrews 11 intentionally seeking to identify what faith in God will allow me to do and accomplish. I compiled quite a list in only the first dozen verses of the chapter.

Faith allows us to:
– obtain witness that we are righteous (v. 4)
– continue our witness after we are dead (v. 4)
– please God (v. 5)
– obey God, even when we cannot see His plans (v. 7)
– become an heir of righteousness (v. 7)
– go where God leads, even when we don’t know where He is taking us (v. 8)
– wait and believe for blessings that take a long time to come to pass (v. 9)
– do the seemingly impossible (v. 11)
– give birth to new nations/ideas/companies/ministries even when we believe we are too old/infirmed/lacking/incapable (v. 12)

I want these things to be accomplished in my life. I want to have a good witness that my life has honored God; I want to be an heir to righteousness; I want to obey and please God; I want to go where God leads; I want to wait patiently for blessings God has promised; I want to be part of the seemingly impossible; and I want to see God birth new ideas and ministries through me despite my limitations. These verses tell me that these things will come to pass to those who have faith in God. Thankfully, I have a strong faith, built over decades of serving the Lord and seeing the blessings that come to those who seek to honor God with their lives.

Perhaps you want God to move in your life, but you feel your faith is weak or is lacking altogether. Fortunately, faith is available to everyone. Paul tells us in Romans 10, that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (v. 17) Our faith is formed as we hear and read God’s Word. It also comes as we share testimonies of the wonderful, and often miraculous, things God is doing in our lives.

If you want to have faith, or to grow your faith, you must spend time in God’s word and you must spend time with Christians whose faith in God is strong. As you spend time reading God’s Word, praying, and hearing testimonies of what God has done for others, your faith will increase. As your faith increases and you seek to honor God, God will empower you to accomplish great and mighty things that would otherwise be impossible and, in doing, so you will obtain a good testimony.

Isn’t is exciting to think about the amazing things God will be able to accomplish through your life as your faith grows and you allow Him to lead you into new and wonderful areas of ministry and service?

Overcoming Despair

There has been much talk in the media about depression and suicide over the past few weeks. The shock of Robin William’s self-inflicted death has spurred this conversation. Looking from the outside, Robin seemed to have everything that most of us aspire to in life–career success, financial security, and a loving family. We have a difficult time accepting that this man who had brought us so much joy and laughter was not laughing along with us. Depression is a serious condition and far too many people struggle to overcome it.

Most people will never face know the depth of depression that would lead them to consider ending their lives. However, we all experience seasons of sadness and despair. These periods may result from the death of a loved one, illness, failure of a marriage or relationship, loss of employment, or any of a number of other causes. Some times it is difficult to accept our loss and move forward with live. Embed from Getty Images

Recently a number of pressures have weighed heavily on me. I found myself thinking constantly about these pressures. I wasn’t worried about them–I recognized that there was nothing I could do about these situations except to pray. Yet, I had a difficult time letting go and enjoying life. The refrain of the old Peter, Paul, and Mary song Old Coat rang in my head frequently. It goes “Take off your old coat and roll up your sleeves, Life is a hard road to travel, I believe.”

Life is often difficult. None of us will escape hard times. Many of us recall that Jesus himself told his disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) However, that is only a portion of the verse. The complete verse reads, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The key to having true peace and joy in life is to remember that Jesus has overcome the world. When we fix our eyes upon Jesus instead of focusing on our problem, we can “be of good cheer.” Today another chorus has been my anthem. It is from the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. The chorus says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

If you are struggling with sadness and despair, I urge you to fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him you will find true peace and hope.
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Fragrance of Christ

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“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 – 17

When I think of sharing the word of God with others, I generally think in terms of speaking to people and touching them with God’s love. But here Paul is telling us that we can attract people to God by the fragrance we give off. Fragrances are generally considered to be pleasant smells, such as the scents of flowers or perfumes, or if you prefer, the aroma of your favorite food.

To diffuse means to disseminate or to spread in all directions. Close your eyes and think about the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting across the air and tantalizing your nose. You turn and breath deeply, trying to identify the source of the scent. Perhaps you follow the scent back to the source.

That is what Paul is admonishing us to do. We need to give off a pleasing scent that will let people know that we know Jesus. We are acquainted with Him and we have the knowledge of His Word in us. That knowledge diffuses and attracts the lost to Him. For those who reject Him, the aroma isn’t pleasant, however. Rather, it reminds them that they are on a path leading to death. That is, perhaps, why those who reject Christ are so hostile to His followers.

It is my desire to reflect Christ in all that I do. And that includes giving off the fragrance of Christ and diffusing His knowledge wherever I go.

Is your aroma enticing others to Christ?

Praying for the Unsaved

 

What is your motivation when you pray for the lost to be saved?  Generally I am motivated by the desire that the person I am praying for will have the best possible life on earth and a future in Heaven.  I don’t want anyone to go to hell, and I am certain the world would be a much better place if more of its inhabitants had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I read a devotional this morning by Charles Finney (Principles of Prayer, Day 6) that challenges that motivation as selfish and the wrong reason to pray for the unsaved.   Finney states that we tend to think about how our lives would be improved by the salvation of others, when we should actually focus on the glory God receives when a sinner comes to repentance and salvation. We need to pray that people come to Christ so they will stop dishonoring God through sin and so that God will be glorified by the conversion.

Perhaps you have known someone whose life was radically changed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.  Those close to such a person can’t help but notice the difference that salvation has made, and many of the person’s acquaintances are drawn to Christ through such a conversion.  God is glorified through all conversions, and our desire should be that God receives the honor and glory due Him. Jesus told us the Heaven rejoices over every person who comes to Him.  “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) 

Christians need to pray frequently and fervently for the lost to be saved.  If we pray with the expectation that God will be honored as sinners turn away from sinful lifestyles and that God will receive glory as the world notices the changes, I believe we will see a great move of God in our nation.  We need to pray for the salvation of not only our loved ones, but also for the salvation of persons of influence.

Can you imagine the impact on our society if many of our political leaders, celebrities, and other public figures came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and began to live according to God’s ordinance?

 

Preach the Word

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“Preach the Word:  be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry.”  2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5

I read these verses in my devotional time this morning while doing a self-study on patience.  I was struck by how appropriate these verses are for our times.  It seems that almost daily I read about laws being passed or courts rulings being handed down that are opposed to God’s Word. Yet, those making the laws and the rulings claim to be acting for the best interest of our nation and trying to do what is ‘right.’  I believe that most of them do believe they are acting to correct injustice and bring about fairness.  The problem is that they are using human reasoning without basing their decisions on a foundation of truth.  As Paul told Timothy, they have found ‘teachers’ who will tell them what they want to hear, and these teachers provide them with justification for making decisions that are contrary to God’s teachings.

Most of these decisions have to do with morality.  Sexual immorality is not merely tolerated, but celebrated, as the freedom to do as one pleases.  Abortion is hailed as giving women the right to have control over their own bodies.  Divorce allows couples to easily dissolve their unions and go their separate ways in the search happiness.  Proponents of these views include many who claim to be teachers of the gospel.  Rather than teaching, correcting, and rebuking those in their charge, these false teachers have given into liberal viewpoints and and political correctness; they are seeking to build their own kingdoms by telling their congregations “what their itching ears want to hear.”

Paul charged Timothy to preach the truth.  Biblical truths are not meant to ease our conscience and allow us to sin without guilt or remorse.  Instead, they were given to convict us when we go astray and lead us back onto the straight and narrow path that leads to God.  Those called to be ministers and evangelists are charged with correcting, rebuking, instructing, and training their flocks and to do so “with great patience and careful instruction.”

In the previous chapter of this letter, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17   If we are to become the people God intends us to be, we need to spend time daily in God’s Word.  We need to read the Bible and allow it’s truths to penetrate our hearts–to rebuke us when we go astray, correct us when we are in error, and instruct us how to live in a manner that pleases God.  And we need ministers who will teach sound doctrine–the truths of God’s Word.  In this way, we will avoid chasing myths and can be equipped to do the good work that God has called each of us to do.