Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and Off of Your “Waves and Billows”

Good morning. It’s Sunday, August 26, 2012. Today is “National Dog Day.” Be nice to your dog today. If you don’t have one, be nice to someone else’s dog. If you hate dogs, well…I just can’t help you.

On this date in 1939, the first televised Major League Baseball game was broadcast on station W2XBS. The game was between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On this date in 1959, the British Motors Corporation debuted the Mark I Mini. And here we all thought the “Mini” was a new car…
On this date in 1920, the 19th Amendment was officially adopted into the United States Constitution. This amendment gave women the right to vote.
On this date in 1968, the Democratic National Convention was besieged by anti-Vietnam War protesters. This prompted a song by the rock group, Chicago, included on their first album.

Lyndon B Johnson was nominated to run for President under the Democrat Party.
On this date in 1974, Charles Lindbergh died at the age of 72. He was the first man to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Stephanie had her first date with Michael last night. He is a young man that attends The Exchange Church, where we go. They had a great time, and it appears that more future dates are in order. What really impressed me was that he arrived at the front door with flowers for Stephanie, and, when they went out to his car, he opened her door for her. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Christi continues to feel better. It still hurts when she walks, but, she says, the pain is getting less each day.

Father, I pray that you show me something today that will help me live this day looking to your grace. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 87. This psalm is by the “sons of Korah.” It begins with praise of Zion, the holy mount of God.
On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God.

The psalm speaks of spiritual birth, which begins in Zion, the dwelling place of God.
The LORD records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.”
Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”
Only the “springs” of God’s dwelling place can satisfy spiritual thirst. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

My Utmost For His Highest
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14:27

“…inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus.” Can this be true? I’m betting that there are people who would argue this point with me. “I’ve got inner peace, and I don’t believe in Jesus.” Frankly, I don’t really believe that, because I believe in Jesus, and still find “inner peace” to be quite evasive. I agree with Chambers, who says, “There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance.” The peace that Jesus gives “comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.” I love how Chambers makes up words. 🙂

At times, we get so disturbed that we are distracted by the “waves and billows of God’s providential permission.” I like that phrase, “the waves and billows of God’s providential permission.” You see, nothing comes your way that he doesn’t allow. And he allows everything for a reason. Our problem is that we get so caught up, having our eyes on those “waves and billows,” that we don’t trust God, and, therefore, that “inner peace” remains evasive. “Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself.” I think that last sentence bears restating. “If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself.” We must not allow anything to hide the face of Jesus from us!

Whatever is pressing in on me at the moment…am I looking to Jesus and receiving his peace? If not, if I try to “worry it out,” I block out his face and, frankly, deserve what I get. “We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him.” What does Jesus say at the beginning of this chapter? “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) This becomes difficult because we focus on ourselves and on our “waves and billows.” What does the old hymn say?
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.

Those are some of the most calming words ever written by man.

Father, I pray that I might truly turn my eyes upon Jesus each day. I certainly attempt to do that, and, I believe, quite successfully. In the morning. Before the drive to work. Unfortunately, it is at that point that everything begins to fall apart. It’s easier to stay focused on those days that I pray while driving to work. But I truly prefer getting my prayers in at home, where I’m not distracted by the task of driving. As I (hopefully) grow closer to you and closer to the man you want me to be, I pray for eyes that see Jesus constantly. I’m always praying, at the beginning of my devotions, for a glimpse of your face. And my desire is that this glimpse might carry me through the day. Each day I ask for only enough grace to get me through the task at hand. I try not to worry anything beyond today. Actually, I would do well not to “worry” about anything. Poor choice of words, there.

I pray daily that I am “right with you,” so that I might be able to look outside myself. I know this attitude of which Chambers speaks. I know that when I am not right with you, I tend to focus on me. But it is so much better to be able to look at you and focus on Christ, and not worry about things. I pray, Father, that when those “waves and billows” come into my life, I will trust your “providential permissions,” and know that you have my life firmly in your grasp and all is under control. I will not be disturbed. I will heed the words of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

I pray for this day. I pray for the worship celebration that is about to happen. I ask that everyone in attendance today will be able to shed their distractions, their disturbances, as they walk in the door of the school where we meet. May they be able to focus on your face for just one hour, and worship you with reckless abandon, through singing, prayer, Scripture reading, and the proclamation of your word. May you speak to us through our pastor as he brings your message to us. I pray that he speaks only the words that you have given him, and that you open our ears to the words that the Spirit would say to us.

May the remainder of this day be a day of peace and rest as we prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies for the week ahead.

Consider Jesus as you look at your “waves and billows.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Sell All You Have

And it’s Saturday! Today is August 18, 2012. Today is “National Bad Poetry Day.” I follow a few poets on WordPress. I don’t think they will be participating. I’ll try one.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
This is a bad poem
I wrote it for you.

(If you don’t want to try bad poetry, it’s also “National Soft Ice Cream Day,” so you could always go to Dairy Queen or Sonic for a cone.)

On this date in 1940, Walter P. Chrysler died at the age of 65. I bet you can guess what he did. On this date in 1227 (a couple years earlier), Genghis Khan died. Several centuries later, he opened a restaurant. On this date in 1590, the famous Roanoke colony was found completely deserted by John White, who had been away on a supply trip to England. No trace was ever found of the inhabitants of the colony. Only the single word, “CROATOAN,” was found carved into the palisade around that was built around the colony. A palisade is a fence made from posts. On this date in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. On this date in 1933, Roman Polanski was born. On this date in 1958, Vladamir Nabokov’s book, Lolita was published. Does anyone else find that ironic? (Those last two items, I mean…look it up.) And on this date in 1941, Hitler suspended the systematic slaughtering of mentally ill and handicapped people because of protests in Germany. Lest anyone think he had a sudden case of conscience, he later revived the program in Poland.

Today, the celebrations begin. In a little while, Christi and I will go to the west side of Fort Worth, pick up Grandmother and Don and bring them back to our side of town for lunch at Fogata’s followed by strawberry birthday cake. Later, we will head over the mall (I know…it’s “tax free weekend”) to pick up a cookie cake, which we will take with us to Mineral Wells tomorrow for the celebration with Grandma and Grandpa. So, Grandma, don’t make a cake or anything. If you already have, it’s okay. So, it’s going to be a right busy weekend! But all to celebrate our special girl turning 19! (Stephen King would like that…if you don’t get that, there’s no way I can explain it to you.)

In about thirty minutes, we head to the grocery store, so I don’t have much time, now. We slept in, because we took off from church setup today, in order to get ready for Steph’s birthday stuff. This is her weekend, so we’re putting off some other things that we normally do. Anyway…better get moving.

Father, I pray that you show me a glimpse of you in the time I have left today.

Today I’m reading Psalm 79. This one was written by Asaph, probably after the Babylonians defeated Jerusalem in 586 B.C. It begins rather hopelessly.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.

Asaph then calls on God for vindication.
How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

Forgiveness and compassion are called for, and finally, we should note that Asaph, while crying out for deliverance for Israel, is also asking God to stand up for his own name’s sake.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!

Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!

And fittingly, the psalmist closes out with praise and thanksgiving.
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Even in the face of the massive destruction of Jerusalem, the true servant of God can still give him praise and thanksgiving.

My Utmost For His Highest
But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Luke 18:23

What “things?” If you look were looking at the book, you would see yesterday’s reading right across the page with verse 22 at the top of the page. Jesus had just told this “rich young ruler” to sell all that he had and distribute the proceeds to the poor, then to come follow him. He went away, “expressionless with sorrow.” Chambers asks, “Have you ever been expressionless with sorrow?” There was no debate. He didn’t argue with Jesus; he understood exactly what was said to him. Has the word of God come to us in something that we are very rich in? This can cause great sorrow, for if we are rich in something, we are hard pressed to give it up. He will not chase after us; he did not chase this ruler. He watched him go. But, when we see him again, he will remind us, “If you mean what you say, those are the conditions.”

What is our version of, “Sell all that you have?” Chambers says, “…undress yourself morally before God of everything that might be a possession until you are a mere conscious human being and then give God that.” The battle is fought in the domain the will! “Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Himself?” This is such a very difficult question! “Beware of allowing anything to soften a hard word of Jesus Christ’s.” We rationalize…”Well, what Jesus really means is…” No. What he means is what he says. Now, we must be careful that we don’t read a story like this one and assume that Jesus wants us all to go sell every physical possession we have. That was specific to this person. However, there is much we can learn from the encounter about how much we hold on to both physical possessions and mental ideas.

Consider this: It is possible to be so “rich in poverty” that we become useless to Christ! If we get so caught up in NOT having things that we lose sight of our Lord, it does us no good. “I can be so rich in the consciousness that I am somebody that I shall never be a disciple. Am I willing to be destitute of the sense that I am destitute?” Oh, yeah. He just said that. I cannot love anything more than Jesus, not even my love for Jesus.

This is an amazing reading! It runs circles around my head, making me dizzy, but, yes…it makes perfect sense. Even our devotion to Christ can become an “idol” in our lives. We must guard against any such thing. Jesus is all. And he must be all, or he is nothing.

Father, I pray that nothing ever hinders my walk with Christ. May I forsake all worldly things that would distract me from this walk or tempt me down a different path. May I also guard (or, rather, I ask that your Spirit guard) against idolatry, even with something as important as my devotion to you or my sense of having nothing and being nothing. All of these things can become idols, Lord. Yet, I need not live my life in fear, being afraid at every corner that I have made something an idol. All that is needed is a simple devotion to Christ, fueled by the power of the Spirit, and a love for the Scriptures, by which I gain knowledge and wisdom. Lord, I’ve been reading the beatitudes each day, praying that you would bring these characteristics to life in me. And if that happens, if I gain those qualities, truthfully, then there will be no worries of “worshiping my worship.” Be my all in all, Lord. Be my strength when I am week, be that treasure that I seek. I will seek you as a precious jewel. I will not give up.

I pray for this day, Lord. We have much planned, and I pray that everything will go smoothly, even down to transferring Don from his wheelchair to Christi’s car. May the day be pleasant and peaceful, as we celebrate Stephanie’s birthday. I pray for her, Lord. Be a blessing to her today, and may we be a blessing to her, as well. May your grace flow down into her heart today, and make her feel your love flowing over her. She is your special child, Father.

I also lift up a special prayer this morning, for Rachel and Justin, who have just embarked on a drive to Minnesota. No, I’m not kidding. Give them travel safety, especially Rachel, who will be doing all of the driving. I pray that they have a wonderful time, visiting their friends, Vince and Patrick. May your blessings, grace, and mercy travel with them.

Jesus has not asked me to “sell all you have.” However, he has asked me to be “poor in spirit,” and to be humble. If there is anything that I consider “riches,” I must be willing to consider it nothing for the sake of Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.