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

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.

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.

Called Children of God

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!…Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  1 John 3:1, 2

tumblr_inline_n6nv3igi311sfx920I have recently begun reading Beth Grant’s book, Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice in God’s Way.  It is a challenging and heart-wrenching expose on the injustices committed against the most vulnerable members of society in countries around the world.  Beth and her husband David have committed their lives to serve as missionaries in India.  This commitment led them to reach out to prostituted women and children and help them to see the possibility of being freed from a life of slavery into a life as a child of God.  While the book is focused on the social injustice of sexual slavery, the principals are applicable to any ministry of compassion.

As I am reading this, God is reaffirming in me that we need to view every person through God’s eyes–as someone He created and loves; as someone God wants to set free from sin; as someone for whom God has a plan and a purpose.  In Beth’s words,

“If one believes a loving God created each human life in His image with a divine purpose, and that it is His will for that life to be lived with dignity and wholeness, that shapes how one views and relates to exploited teenage girls in Moldova.”
 

This viewpoint should also shape how one views the homeless person walking down any street in America carrying all his belongings on his back, the drug addicted mother who doesn’t take proper care of her children, the disabled person who needs help with the most basic functions of life, and the mentally ill person struggling to make sense of life.

If we truly believe that each of us is created in God’s image, we must treat each person we encounter with dignity and compassion. We must share God’s Word and God’s love with them.  We must help them to believe that no one can fall so far that God cannot pick her up and transform her into His child.  God looks at each of us and see us as He intends us to be, His children whom He loves and whom He wants to transform to fulfill His divine purpose for our lives.

My prayer is that I will look at the most vulnerable members of our society with eyes full of compassion and love. May I will allow God to teach me how to treat each one with dignity and grace., so that they too will know the blessing of being called a child of God.

Will you allow God to use you to share His love with those in need of love and compassion?

A Cat Pinata for a Special Birthday

Cat piñata for our grandson's birthday
Cat piñata for our grandson’s birthday

My two year-old grandson is crazy about cats, or Meows as he calls them. So when I decided to make him a piñata for his birthday, it seemed natural to make a cat piñata. My husband Steve and our four year-old grandson Daniel got in on the fun. Steve and I made piñatas for our children when they were young, but it has been many years since our last one.

I used two balloons to form the head and body, and paper mached them using a mixture of flour and water. Daniel painted it orange, as his brother’s favorite stuffed animal is an orange tabby. I used batting to make a patch of white on the cat’s chest and face. Steve made the feet, eyes, and ears from construction paper, and I finished it with a fancy tail.

Daniel was very proud of the finished product.
Daniel was very proud of the finished product.

Daniel was quite proud of our efforts and dubbed it ‘cat yata.’ Joshua was thrilled. I am not sure that he will be quite so thrilled tomorrow when it is put into action at his birthday party.  What a delight it was to work together as a family on a creative project.  Our granddaughter is already wondering what kind of piñata grandma and papa are going to make her for her birthday in December.  I am certain that we will need Daniel’s help to make a very special piñata for his cousin.

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.

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.

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.

Am I the Only One?

A Facebook friend recently started a post with the question, “Why do I feel like the only person left in this country who…?” The rest of the question dealt with an issue of morality and modesty. She sparked a highly opinionated discussion. One side argued the rights of adults to do whatever they want without concern about what others think. The other side argued for the right to be protected from a constant barrage of nudity and immorality in very public places. I whole-heartedly agree with the questioner and her supporters; our country is far too liberal and immoral and it is becoming increasingly difficult to raise children to be modest and moral in our society. However, continuing that Facebook argument is not the point of this post.

I want to address her opening phrase, “Why do I feel like I’m the only one?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question. The writer is fully aware that many others agree with her opinion. She is also fully aware, however, that she is in the minority in our society. Everywhere we look, we can see evidence that our society is increasing moving away from God and towards a more liberal, sinful society. It is easy to blame Hollywood, and certainly much of the blame rest of on the shoulders of Hollywood producers who have ‘pushed the boundaries’ of morality and acceptability since it’s inception. Hollywood claims to reflect society, but many of us recognize that Hollywood is, and has been for decades, a highly influential molder of society’s values. Christians and others who desire a more moral society are losing the battle.

In the Old Testament, we read a statement similar to the question in the Facebook post. Elijah was facing a desperate situation. The Jewish nation had turned its back on God and chosen instead to worship Baal. Elijah alone stood up to the 400 prophets of Baal and defeated them. Afterwards, Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah felt like he was fighting the battle alone and ran for his life. God sent an angel to care for him. Later God questioned him about why he ran away. Elijah replied,

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 1 Kings 19:10.

God responded that Elijah needed to go back and continue the fight and that God would supply others to help him in the battle. In fact, God told him that there were 7,000 others in Israel who had refused to bow to Baal and were serving the Lord God.

It is easy to get discouraged when everywhere we look we see the decaying of our society. But, like Elijah, we must continue the fight. We must fight for a return to traditional values and standards of behavior that reflect the high value God places on each individual. But that is not enough. We must train our children to love the Lord God with all their hearts and souls and minds. God’s Word must be the foundation on which we base morality and standards of behavior.

Christians are in the minority in American society today. Yet, none of us are alone. There are millions of Christians fighting the battle against the darkness of this world everyday. And the Lord God fights with us, as He fought with the Israelites. Let us be inspired by the words Moses instructed the priests to use to send the Israelites off into battle:

Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:3, 4

No, my friend, you are not the only one.