Every Christian is on a journey to know God more fully (John 17:3)… but rarely does anyone explain that the path is not an easy one nor is it well-populated. It can be strange and disorienting, especially as you look around and it seems no one else is travelling with you, or that no one else has passed this way before (not true, but it can feel that way).
John Newton (1725-1807), best known as the author of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ in another hymn describes the way our Father draws us near and refines our faith into the finest spiritual “steel”…
I ask’d the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answer’d prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favour’d hour
At once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seem’d
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried,
“Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith:”
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”
~ John Newton (1725-1807)
Source: Winchell, James M., ed. An Arrangement of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts. Boston: James Loring, and Lincoln & Edmands, 1832.
Every happiness is limited.
Every life runs out.
Every relationship ends in separation.
But for those of us that have been rescued by Jesus the Christ, there is an impending unveiling of a very different story that has been forming inside us from the first moment we abandoned ourselves and relinquished our lives into His hands.
The Day is coming when descriptive words will fail as we step into the Presence of our Father…
no barriers, and
no ending to His love, His power, or His story.
And we are inextricably and eternally caught up in Him, slipping away from this boot camp existence and into the place we have always belonged.
Lord, give us eyes to glimpse this unseen and certain destiny… our hope.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9:6-7
Christmas is not always a happy time.
- For some, it is a reminder that they feel terribly disconnected and alone.
- Many first responders, medical staff, “essential personnel,” and military service men and women will miss some or all of the holiday gatherings with their families, who will miss them deeply.
- When someone dear has died, this day will be reminder of the absence. Grief can resurface, barricading the heart from joy.
- And there are other losses, crises, and hurts that can kill the traditional spirit of celebration… an unhappy marriage or divorce, a family tension or conflict, unemployment, illness, and countless other forms of human pain and suffering.
Isaiah was a sensitive man who was weary of living in such a world of hurt and loss.
Isaiah lost king Uzziah after a prosperous 58-year reign. Admired for his efforts at religious reform and his personal devotion, Uzziah had impacted a nation—and a young man named Isaiah. Uzziah’s passing cast a long shadow over the future of the nation. Isaiah’s hero and spiritual leader was dead.
Isaiah began to seek God more than ever during dark and disturbing times. The world seemed as if it was reeling out of control. Then God gave Isaiah a powerful vision of His glory and power (Isaiah 6). Later, in Isaiah 9, God revealed details concerning a future Messiah who would restore order to a chaotic and corrupt world. Convinced of the rule of God in his life and in the world around him, Isaiah was transformed by the Christmas Revolution!
Let me say it again: Isaiah was gripped by a vision of the kingdom of God ushered in by the birth of a child – it would color the rest of his life and work.
You may feel life is reeling out of control and the world is a dark and painful place. And it is. You are not wrong about that. Isaiah saw it too and longed for change… real hope that Someone was going to come and reshape, reform, renew, and recreate all of life! Peering through time to observe what God was doing behind the scenes in human history, Isaiah saw the child… and he penned a poetic song describing the Son of God upon whose shoulders all authority will rest: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
That child was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but He is near you at this moment. He lives and He is not hiding in some far away corner of the universe. He is no Santa Claus, but He does see you always. He knows you.
The world you are living in can be filled with hope and light by opening the door to your heart. What do I mean by that? “Opening the door” includes…
- placing your trust in Him for salvation from sin and death (John 3:16-17),
- yielding to Him the reins of your life… He wants to change you from the inside out (Matthew 11:28-30, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29),
- letting Him come into your needs (Matthew 6:25-34),
- letting Him speak and obeying what He says (Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17),
- taking responsibility for your sins, then seeking and accepting His forgiveness — His death on the cross was God’s way of wiping away your sins… Jesus died in your place (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Ephesians 1:17, 1 John 1:9), and
- falling down before Him in worship (like the wise men). Rising from the dead, Jesus became Lord over everything that would be Lord over you (Philippians 2:9-11).
The King is here. He patiently waits for you to get that. It’s the bottom line of the Christmas Revolution.
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Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.
Romans 10:17 “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Be careful what you pray for. When I first married, I asked God to make me a man of faith. I thought that was the thing to do. Then…
- … he allowed us to experience a deep financial crisis;
- … he led us to serve twice in places that couldn’t support us;
- … he allowed us to lose children in three pregnancies;
- … he allowed me to be unemployed on 3 different occasions; and
- … he allowed me to enter a surveilance mode for cancer (though still clear after 6 years).
And there’s more. But you’ve got the picture.
Faith didn’t arrive because of those experiences, but faith in God was enlarged as He led us through those experiences. In each circumstance I found myself driven for direction and comfort in God’s Word. And on each occasion God spoke to me in new ways even when reading familiar passages.
Faith cannot be exercised until we know what to trust God for. We can read the Bible and not hear God. But when we turn to the Scripture with a burning thirst for direction and help, He speaks!
Faith is a response to what God says. Hearing results from the word (literally “utterance”) that God impresses on your heart as you pour over the pages of the Scripture.
When God speaks, my life changes, even though my circumstances may never change to my liking. Would I pray again to become a man of faith?
In a heartbeat! I would not have wanted to live those experiences without a vital faith rumbling around in my soul — a faith driven by encounters with God in His Word.