Turn Your Eyes


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!

Written by Helen Lemmel, 1922

Based on Hebrews 12:2 – Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


A Capella

Youtube license for this video – Anish Thankachan

An Unknown Road

Featured Image -- 5514

Originally posted on Cindi Gale:

“Life is difficult for those who have the daring to first set out on an unknown road. The avant-garde always has a bad time of it.” – Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, 1889

Those who trust enough to travel unknown roads sacrifice much. The road never-before-traveled is often isolating, desolate, and ensconced in darkness. Commitment to the road requires every ounce of available courage, perseverance, grit, restraint, fortitude, and faithfulness.

dark forest for blogOn the seemingly endless, trial-filled journey, depletion is inevitable. There comes a day when you find yourself flat on your face in the dirt, aware of the ruins of your life because of the road.

One more step is impossible. It’s then that you look up and see … light? aid? rest?

No, a mountain where the path had been level.

And always, always there comes from nowhere a reason to peel yourself off the hard, cold ground and begrudgingly, resentfully, tearfully…

View original 119 more words

Be Transformed

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

What does it look like to be transformed by God? A reader emailed this question, wanting specifics on how transformation applied to his life. I could only offer some of my personal experiences pertaining to the topic. He responded that my email to him “helped a lot”, so I am sharing it in hopes it might benefit others as well.

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Dear ____,

Not knowing you, I’m unable to personalize the transformative work of God to your life. But if you’re wondering about general things, maybe my experiences will be helpful to you.

I had to understand that God wants me to be the core person He made me to be, not who I’d unknowingly become over my lifetime. I realized that some of “me” has been constant my whole life; some of “me” didn’t really bother me, but it didn’t feel fully comfortable to me either; and some of” me” I thought was wrong, so I trumped her with being intentionally different than I was.

For example, I thought I was required to be nice to everybody, especially the most difficult people to please. Somehow that niceness ended up with a hefty dose of passivity included. It allowed selfish manipulators to capitalize on it. I didn’t know when or how it started, and it never occurred to me that it needed to change. I’d expected God to address my irritability as a problem, not “niceness”!

In the process of transforming that habitual behavior, God challenged me to NOT automatically default to “nice”. Instead, I should trust in my instincts and attend to the Holy Spirit, facing situations as those two things led me. I did that, and found myself handling difficult people with increasing wisdom, confidence, and firmness. Some people didn’t like the change and said so. It took loads of faith to follow Him in this area of transformation. But after a few years of practice, I realized I was able to better interact with all people, even aggressors and manipulators. I’m not often treated like a doormat anymore. I learned my old idea of nice was a complication, not a solution.

Here’s another example: I used to measure myself by others’ reactions to me. Now I know they have to answer for themselves, just as I have to answer for myself. I am who I am, not who people determine me to be. They’re often wrong in their judgment, anyway.

Another example is my adoption of Christian teachings. I picked up the unspoken expectations and spoken rules of churches. I wanted to be pliable and open-minded, so I trusted and complied. I assumed they knew best. Often, they didn’t. I should have let God transform me instead of letting people do that.

Over ten years ago, God started “cleansing my palate” of the flavors I took on from two churches, in particular, that I’d attended. He expressed his disapproval of many of the beliefs and rules that had been imposed on me, including much self-righteousness integrated into their practices. Once God revealed His opinions, I developed a strong aversion to what He disliked. Eventually, I saw how a few assertive people within those churches had changed who I was. They had made me timid and scared of breaking their rules. My compliance with their self-righteousness forced me into a self-righteous plane, inconsistent with my own heart. Complying with people’s rules instead of God’s leading, resulted in isolating me from people with different beliefs.

I also was living superficially, morphing to the external factors of rules and expectations of others. God taught me to value internal factors also, including my own thoughts and characteristics. I learned to listen to others’ beliefs, actively process the ideas before agreeing, and to always await God’s thoughts about it. With God’s guidance over a few years, I slowly learned to be driven from within: by the Holy Spirit and my own thoughts, beliefs, and intuition.

Once I had God’s point of view, and I realized He had never demanded my conformity to peoples’ beliefs and rules, I felt such relief. I was myself for the first time I could remember. It was like “me” being introduced to “me”! And the best thing? — God approved of me, which made self-acceptance much easier.

Like a potter, God had restructured the shape of what people had made me. He kept the clay I was created to be, and reshaped me as He wanted.

Jeremiah 18 (NIV)

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down tothe potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

This amazed me about God, my potter: He was never forceful; he did not smash my old clay pot to gain the new. He simply brought my attention to His opinions, and to overlooked qualities within me. I saw what I hadn’t before, only because He showed me. I changed the shape of my clay pot, not because he forced me to, but because he asked me to — I agreed with Him.

I hope those examples help. I don’t know your story. You may not have experienced much of your true, God-given identity yet. There may be talents, wisdom, or qualities within you that have yet to surface. Or maybe they have, but remained unnoticed — instead you mirrored what people expected of you. Maybe you have already expressed your transformed self, and it was met with disapproval by people.

Trust in what you hear from God about you. Look past those disapproving people at odds with truth, and don’t stop being you. If it is God directing your transformation, an abundance of people will ultimately approve you, too. Don’t forget you have the Holy Spirit’s help — you are not doing this alone.

Philippians 2: (NIV)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Also, thank you for your kind words. I don’t always think with optimism and belief in people. But when God reveals His thoughts, I do love to share His attitude of restoration, possibilities and mercy. What a privilege to believe in a person and watch them become all that and more.

We Plan, God Prevails

Living in the landlocked heartland of the United States, I don’t often experience oceans. So during a visit to Mexico recently, I savored the sounds: the rolling waves of the North Atlantic lapping the shore, the calls of unfamiliar birds; the sights: sublime blues, greens and aquas; the sensations: warmth and dynamic, soothing sand underfoot.

There were kayaks and baby catamarans for us to journey a few hundred yards from shore. On each exertion, the swells of the waves lifted and rested, rocked and settled the small crafts. Had the winds been stronger and the waves more forceful, we would have been challenged to paddle or sail on course. But the days were merely breezy — it was on one of those afternoons while kayaking the gentle, stable swells, that a scripture came to mind:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21

The lesson was in the water — its power, its movement, its potential force. Assuming we desire God’s will for our lives, if need be, God will increase his power under our efforts to move us where we belong.

Sometimes we paddle, but foolishly. Sometimes we lack motivation and inspiration, and just sit there in our kayaks, not paddling at all. Our humanness makes us incapable of perfection, and many life decisions are burdensome. What if we error? We fear the consequences of poor paddling, poor decisions — “What if I choose the wrong friends, the wrong college or major, the wrong mate, the wrong job in the wrong city, the wrong school for my children, the wrong doctor or medical facility for a grave health issue, the wrong end-of-life care for a loved one … ?”

Fear not. God’s purpose will prevail. Life decisions which appear to us to be permanently consequential, are not so from God’s perspective. Regardless the direction we’ve paddled or drifted, our life stories are not over. If we genuinely desire God’s will for our lives, yet inadvertently paddle or drift in the wrong direction, he will rise like ocean waves to move and settle us onto his course.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

What a relief. The big and small decisions we must make in life, are not as burdensome as they often seem. If we sincerely and consistently aspire to be in God’s will, then, despite our misjudgments, apathy and errors, the LORD’S purpose will certainly prevail.

Trust Without Borders

“As for me, I shall call upon God, And the LORD will save me.”

Psalm 55:16 

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“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 

Romans 10:12

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“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:18

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“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

Psalm 18:16

 


“Oceans” by Hillsong United; You Tube video licensed by Hillsong United TV.

Peace and Hope

Romans 5 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies,we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Man Versus God

I’ve been thinking about the Isaac and Ishmael story. Isaac’s creation and existence was in God’s time. Ishmael was by Sarah’s plan to obtain a son through Hagar.

Both were sons of Abraham, so you would expect them to have similar lives. But they didn’t. Isaac’s life was blessed and superior. Isaac had God’s endorsement, while Ishmael was man’s plan. Though Abraham pleaded with God to include Ishmael in God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants, and God agreed, it was a consolation promise. Isaac got to be on the inside with his father, while Ishmael ended up on the outside. Man’s plan could not usurp a plan of God.

Ishmael’s life was conceived by human agendas. We can do the same today. We can live leaving God out of the equation.

Isaac’s life was conceived by God’s will. We can do that today also. We can include God and commit to being fully cooperative with His will for our lives.

If we submit to God, what will He do with us? Will he force us to be subject to the whims and powers of life’s unfoldings, beaten down by life? No. If we are met with opposition, it is to gain from the experiences, not to be beaten by them. God aspires that we overcome evil with good, and ultimately move from wartime to peacetime. Trials serve to develop character and fortitude.

In contrast, if we are pressed to be a success according to human plans, like Ishmael, we will become a product of society’s values.

Can a person raised by man’s methods, mentored to rise in status among men, displace a person raised and mentored by God? No. Though they had the same father and similar environmental influences, Ishmael never rose to the position granted Isaac.

Some people look at the opportunities God has given to others and want those opportunities for themselves. They try to get there by human methods, and wonder why they fall short. The route to a God-appointed position is via God’s will. We must be willing to go God’s route; to be shaped by Him; to be raised by Him as if we were infants again. We must let God teach, mentor, evaluate, promote, and ultimately determine the course of our lives.

Opportunity has a ceiling when done by human effort. It can’t compare to the peak potential of a life in the hands of God.

God’s ways are not our ways. He aims His Isaacs toward enduring influence on humanity. He raises his Isaacs to have effectual, righteous character and integrity, through which societal thinking can be penetrated by God’s justice, mercy, and love.

An Isaac ends up esteemed by humanity. We all are beneficiaries of the Isaacs of this world — people shaped by God; not just another Ishmael shaped by man. An Isaac life postmortem is remembered by his infusion of the ways of God into the lives of others.

An Isaac can bridge social barriers that an Ishmael cannot. An Isaac earns the right to be heard. He cares nothing about society’s cast systems and attends to those God sends him to, regardless of their social status. Without bias, he informs people of their rights to truth, hope, and freedom.

Isaac was conceived and had life, because God created him.

Ishmael was conceived and had life, because man created him.

Which do you want?

It’s a simple as letting God or letting man, letting God or letting society, letting God or letting yourself have the “say-so” about you.

Man versus God. Let it be God.