Tag Archives: Faith

Of burdens and birds


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They shall mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31).

There is a fable about the way the birds got their wings at the beginning. They were first made without wings. Then God made the wings and put them down before the wingless birds and said to them, “Come, take up these burdens and bear them.”

The birds had lovely plumage and sweet voices; they could sing, and their feathers gleamed in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air. They hesitated at first when bidden to take up the burdens that lay at their feet, but soon they obeyed, and taking up the wings in their beaks, laid them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a little while the load seemed heavy and hard to bear, but presently, as they went on carrying the burdens, folding them over their hearts, the wings grew fast to their little bodies, and soon they discovered how to use them, and were lifted by them up into the air — the weights became wings.

It is a parable. We are the wingless birds, and our duties and tasks are the pinions God has made to lift us up and carry us heavenward. We look at our burdens and heavy loads, and shrink from them; but as we lift them and bind them about our hearts, they become wings, and on them we rise and soar toward God.

There is no burden which, if we lift it cheerfully and bear it with love in our hearts, will not become a blessing to us. God means our tasks to be our helpers; to refuse to bend our shoulders to receive a load, is to decline a new opportunity for growth. –J. R. Miller

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Our invisible building


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(J. R. Miller, “Unfinished Life-building”)

“This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!” Luke 14:30

We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see—but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!

Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
Every experience,
every touch of another life on ours,
every influence that impresses us,
every book we read,
every conversation we have,
every act in our commonest days—
adds something to our invisible building.
All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.

Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty—which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!

There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time—but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up—a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin—telling no story of past splendor—as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum—a monument only of folly and failure!

Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work—to leave it unfinished.

It may be the world’s fascinations, which lure him from Christ’s side.

It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.

It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven.

It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.

Many are those now amid the world’s throngs—who once sat at the Lord’s Table and were among God’s people! Their lives are unfinished buildings, towers begun with great enthusiasm—and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build—and were not able to finish.

It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm—but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities—but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!

In all aspects of life—we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone—and two hearts tried to make it come true—but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery—or going their own sad and separate ways.

So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.

There is  . . .
not a soul-wreck on the streets,
not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
not a debased, fallen person anywhere—
in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves—never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!

The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
  finish our work,
allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
never become weary in following Christ,
persevere from the beginning of our ideals—steadfast unto the end.

We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.

No discouragement,
no sorrow,
no worldly attraction,
no hardship—
should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ—should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!

“This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!” Luke 14:30

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Redeem the Rejection of Singleness


The narrow wayRedeem the Rejection of Singleness
May 21, 2015 by Fabienne Harford  Topic: Dating & Singleness

You can read the original article on Desiring God here:http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/redeem-the-rejection-of-singleness

Redeem the Rejection of Singleness
When I was a little girl, I never associated being alone with being rejected. Time on my own afforded me the opportunity to disappear inside my imagination without interruption. I’m not so different now than I was then. I still love finding time away from the world.

However, if I’m not careful, my joy of aloneness gets sabotaged by the painful thought that maybe I am alone because I am not wanted, not chosen, no one’s favorite.

Why Does It Hurt?

Rejection hurts — and in singleness there is plenty of it to go around. Whether it’s the explicit rejection some men face when they ask a woman on a date, or the implicit rejection of wondering why no man is asking you on a date, the single will have to face the fear that they are not wanted.

The world may tell you the solution to this pain is to speak worth over yourself so loudly that you drown out the whisper of rejection. But it doesn’t work. Because we were created to have worth spoken into us by Someone outside of ourselves. What a great gift that needy design is for continually driving us to God. And what a terrifying distortion it is when we let it drive us to mere mortals. There is no person on earth that should have the power to speak into us value or worth in such a way that it secures our identity.

The church may tell you the solution to this pain is a simplistic notion of Jesus; that if you embrace the truth that he wants you, you will be able to overcome the pain of rejection in singleness. Sounds good to me, but there is an agonizing question I find bubbling up in my soul when I consider this: If Jesus is supposed to satisfy all my hunger to be loved and wanted, why doesn’t he?

The Sabotage of Acceptance

We will never find Jesus’s approval truly satisfying until we stop seeking our approval from others. In the book of John, Jesus asks this question:

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
When we treat people as if they have the power to determine our value, we attribute to them a power that belongs to God alone. As long as they hold power over our worth, we will never feel safe and satisfied in God’s acceptance. It’s like wondering why the finest steak in town isn’t satisfying us when you keep shoving McDonald’s fries down our throat before you eat.

Jesus says that if affirmation from people can add to your sense of self and deep security, it will rob you of the ability to experience deep belief in him. If we want to know why we aren’t satisfied in Jesus, here’s his answer: You receive affirmation from creatures and don’t seek it from the only Creator.

That’s why I feel no hesitation in claiming that the pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts. It provides a head start on being satisfied in God.

Don’t Waste Your Rejection

Part of the reason rejection hurts so much is because it’s tearing away from us the approval of men. If we can fight the urge to comfort ourselves by scrambling for more human affirmation, we can use that hurt as an opportunity to drive us to seek our affirmation from God.

“The pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts.” Tweet
You will waste the rejection of singleness if you let the pain drive you to seek affirmation of worth from people instead of God. God has designed this beautiful gift of singleness to highlight your need to be chosen and to underline the inadequacy of people to fill that need. Don’t be ashamed by your hunger to be wanted and chosen. Don’t try to cover or conceal or fill it with positive thinking or encouragement from mortal men. Let it drive you to cling to the God who has chosen you at great cost.

Let no one except God have the power to determine your worth. Let no covenant, other than the New Covenant with Christ, satisfy your need to be chosen.

Gaining Christ

If you are no mortal man’s favorite, you are in good company. Besides me, you’re also in the company of the one who was “despised and rejected by men.” Don’t waste the opportunity to be comforted by the great high priest who can sympathize with your weakness because he has experienced the full depths of rejection.

As you find yourself secure in Christ, you will stand more fully on the great promise that you will never be forsaken, never be rejected by God. Every hour of every day, for all eternity, you are wanted, chosen, picked. And you know why? Because Jesus was willing to face rejection so that you could be secure. He faced our nightmare so we could live in the dream: unconditional love from our sufficient Savior.

Overflowing in Love

The more you seek and experience the glory that comes from the only God, the more of an asset you will be to the hurting and broken around you in the church and the city. You will go into this world full, not empty — satisfied, not starving. Instead of looking around and constantly perceiving the world through the lens of rejection, you will be so safe and secure you will be free to look around and pursue the rejected.

In Christ, we are free to receive the aloneness of singleness as a gift, knowing that it is not ultimately rooted in rejection. That fear and insecurity is drowned out by his great and precious promises.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32)
Settle it in your mind: You are not alone because you are unwanted, unloved, or rejected. Your life is being written with kind and perfect intentions by a sovereign and loving God who is stewarding all things to give you the greatest possible good: himself.

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“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1)


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This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.

And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.

My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.
–George Matheson

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In Acceptance Lieth Peace


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He said, “I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices mourning deep within me, cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain;
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood, cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain;
Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said ‘I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain;
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain,
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?’
But vain the word; vain, vain;
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.’
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in acceptance lieth peace.

Amy Carmichael

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My cross


And he went out carrying his own cross (John 19:17).

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There is a poem called “The Changed Cross.” It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose an other instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. “Ah, this I can wear with comfort,” she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.

Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.

At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.

God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.
–Glimpses through Life’s Windows

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Small steps of faith


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So faith looks up and sails on, by Gods great Sun, not seeing one shore line or earthly lighthouse or path upon the way. Often its steps seem to lead into utter uncertainty, and even darkness and disaster; but He opens the way, and often makes such midnight hours the very gates of day.

Let us go forth this day, not knowing, but trusting.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

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August 27, 2014 · 7:00 am

God uses the broken pieces


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And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44).

The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.

Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.

Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.

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The birds and lilies teach me better


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(Alexander Smellie, “The Hour of Silence” 1899)

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Let me not worry — the birds and lilies teach me better. God spreads a table for the sparrows, and clothes the wayside anemones with their exquisite beauty. And I am dearer to Him by far. I, who am made in His image, and for whom His Son has died, and whom He means to dwell with Him in His Heaven — I occupy a larger place in His heart of hearts.

Let me not worry — it serves no good purpose to fret and worry. I cannot, with all my solicitude, add a cubit either to my stature or to my age. Anxiousness will only plunge me into mental distress and annoyance and sorrow, without bringing me any compensating advantage whatever. It knows how to wound; but ah! it does not know how to heal.

Let me not worry — a child should have more confidence in his Father’s wisdom and watchfulness and love. It may be excusable for worldly men and women to worry — but not a son in the royal and wealthy family of the King of kings! There is no justification for him if he goes worried and burdened during the day, and lies down to hours of sleeplessness at night.

“So do not worry . . . For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!” Matthew 6:31-32

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Waiting is an art


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Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.

It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.

Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming.

Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of my love this Christmas-tide. We shall both experience a few dark hours—why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…. And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Letter to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2011-03-21). God Is In the Manger (pp. 4-5). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

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