by Dottie Ryan

Life is difficult this side of eternity.  And sometimes just trying to hold on to enough faith to believe that He really does have you – that He really is sovereign in your life – that He really is weaving it all together for your good – that He’s not forgotten you … well, that can seem like more faith than we have.  Aren’t you so glad that it is He who holds on to us?  That it is His perfect life, His perfect death, His perfect resurrection . . . Christ’s perfect finished work that the Father sees.  No wrath for us.  Peace.  Love.  Joy.  Even when it doesn’t “feel” like it.  So let’s not lose our focus.  Eyes on Him!  Admit our difficulties and pain but without losing sight of who He is and what He has done on our behalf.  And that He – God – too, suffered more than we can ever know.  The author of Hebrews tells us that He, yes, even Jesus was made perfect through His sufferings (Hebrews 2:10) and that He “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death (Hebrews 5:7, NIV).  And He was heard.

We are Daughters of the King!  So we rejoice in Him!

Yet we also suffer.  Walking out life on planet earth is difficult.  So we count the cost.  And trusting what the Lord has promised in Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” we move forward focused on Christ knowing that our suffering is temporary.  We cry out to Him and lean in on Him whose yoke is easy.  His yoke is easy and so we come to Him just as we are – weary and heavy laden – looking for the promised rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28 paraphrased).  He is faithful.

Jesus knows perfectly what you and I are going through.  Hebrews 2:17-18 reminds us that he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, . . .For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  He suffered.  He took on every pain we have ever or will ever know and feel: He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.…” (Isaiah 53:3-5, NASB).  Let this sink in.  Look to the Cross.  And keep eternity in mind.

When Jesus cried out to the Father in the midst of His torment, he was heard because of His reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7, NIV).  And because of Him, our cries are also heard.

Together let’s will keep the Truth as our guidepost.  Let’s make deliberate choices to believe the Word of God is true no matter what we are going through.  And as sisters let us hold each other accountable, lift each other up in prayer, and walk forward, step-by-step until our sojourn on this earth is over.  And then, O to see His Face . . .  Glory!

by Susan Sampson

Behold, believe, bow, and boldly go forth as a vessel of His glory!1

I looked up the definition of “behold.”  It is a verb and it means “regard or look at.”  Then I looked up the synonyms. Here are just some:

Feast one’s eyes
Lay eyes on

Which one speaks to your heart?  I love “feast one’s eyes.”  I also like “survey” because the song “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” comes to mind.  I want to feast my eyes on Christ.  I want to feast on His Word.  David feasted on the Lord and then said, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).  I want to behold His power and glory!  One of the ladies in my group said she loved the word “behold” because it made her think “be holding.”  We are called to abide in Christ, to draw near, to come to Him.  I can have this “great quiet time” — reading the Word, saying “Yes, Lord!”  And truly it is minutes after I get up that I think to myself, “What did I just read?”  I so want to hold onto God’s Word throughout my day, truly believing it, meditating on it, beholding it, and living it out.

The Spirit in me desires this.  But the flesh wages war against the Spirit in me.  “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17).  This is why our flesh must be put to death.  This is why we must say, “No.”  No to our wrong thoughts and wrong ways.

Laurie said our stubborn and rebellious flesh holds us and binds us to the dry and weary land.  Praise be to God that Jesus came to set the captives free!  We are not alone.  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” (Isaiah 61:1). 

We are the clay, jars of clay.  He is the Potter.  I love this picture.  It is so helpful.  Dry clay is not good for anything.  But when the Potter pours water over the clay, and kneads it into the clay, it becomes pliable, useable, useful, and eventually a beautiful vessel of His glory.  We must behold, believe, and bow to His Word.  My flesh balks at the word bow.  My flesh does not want to bow.  Our hearts are hard.  The only way they will become soft is if they are soaking in the Living Water.  Doesn’t it seem like it takes just minutes for our hearts to harden when we step away from the Fountain of Life?

This is why we must constantly behold the Lord.  Survey the cross.  Witness His death and resurrection.  Observe His testimonies.  Contemplate the Gospel.  Place ourselves in His Word — the Fountain of Life — His living and active Word every day and choose by faith to believe and bow.  Put off the flesh by saying, “No” to it and put on faith by saying, “Yes” to Jesus and humbly accepting the truth of His Word.

So where are you looking?  Where are you going to look?  My eyes are so very often on the storm and not Christ.  Dust storms happen almost daily in this dry and weary land where there is no water.  Some more severe than others.  Some last longer than others.  But they always come and they cloud our vision of the glory of the Lord so easily.   My husband thinks it’s funny that I can spot one tiny speck of dust on his suit as he is getting ready to go to work. It’s so easy for me to have my eyes on the dust.

Jesus was sleeping during the storm.  He commands the storms.  He stood as King at the flood.  He is reigning and ruling as I type this.  He is all powerful.  He is Sovereign over all.  His glory fills the earth.  He is always with us.  There is no place we can ever go — the valley or the mountaintop where He is not.  “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).

Let us behold Him.  “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'”  (John 1:29). The Lamb has set us free.  Let us daily choose by faith to feast our eyes on the Lamb — behold, believe, bow, and boldly go forth as a vessel of His glory!

1These were points from one of Laurie Aker’s lectures for Falling in Love Again with your Lord, Lesson Four: Your Power and Your Glory.

by Scott Kaczorowski

What follows is a strong statement. But hopefully not a controversial one. The single most important thing that any Christian needs to understand is how deeply God loves them in Christ. Paul prays that the Ephesians will have an understanding of God’s deep love:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

There is a connection here between deeply knowing and understanding the love of God and being “filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19).1 There are times when God gives an overwhelming sense of his love to His children. Perhaps a few examples from history will spur us on to seek the same.2

The 18th century New England pastor Jonathan Edwards wrote of a woman in his congregation during the beginning of what would become known as the Great Awakening:

There is a pious woman in this town that is a very modest bashful person, that was moved by what she heard of the experiences of others earnestly to seek to God to give her more clear manifestations of himself… and God answered her request, and gradually gave her more and more of a sense of his glory and love, which she had with intermissions for several days, till one morning …she had it to a more than ordinary degree, and it prevailed more and more till towards the middle of the day, till her nature began to sink under it, as she was alone in the house; but there came somebody into the house, and found her in an unusual, extraordinary frame. She expressed what she saw and felt to him; it came to that at last that they raised the neighbors, [for] they were afraid she would die; I went up to see her and found her perfectly sober and in the exercise of her reason, but having her nature seemingly overborne and sinking, and when she could speak expressing in a manner that can’t be described the sense she had of the glory of God… it seemed to me [that] if God had manifested a little more of himself to her she would immediately have sunk and her frame dissolved under it.3

Iain Murray describes a similar experience of George Whitefield, one of Edwards’ contemporaries, who wrote of himself: “I myself was so overpowered with a sense of God’s love, that it almost took away my life.”4 Murray also recounts the words of the 19th century evangelist Dwight Moody:

I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York–Oh, what a day–I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred and experience to name.  …I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.  I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different: I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world…”5

There are some similar threads that run through these accounts: (1) These saints experienced a deep sense of the love of God. (2) The sense was so strong it physically overpowered them. (3) They read like what the answer to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 might look like. (4) In the case of the woman and Moody at least, they were asking God to grant more of an experience of Himself.

So if our hearts are cold and empty and lacking an experiential understanding of the love of God, we can ask. If the single most important thing that any Christian needs to understand is how deeply God loves them in Christ, then if we truly get the love of God right, everything else in our Christian walk will fall into place.  If we lack understanding of the love of God, everything else in our Christian life will be out of wack (to varying degrees). This is the line in the sand.  The love of God.

1cf. Iain H. Murry, Pentecost–Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), 90-91, which I rediscovered after writing this line.
2cf. Murry, p. 91—but if I was following him, I was not conscious of it when I wrote this.
3Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 4: The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen (New Have: Yale University Press, 1972), 105-106.
4Luke Tyerman, Life of George Whitefield (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1876), Vol. 1, 386. As quoted in Murry, 94.
5W. R. Moody, Life of Dwight L. Moody (London: Morgan and Scott, n.d.), 135. As quoted in Murry, 98.