“We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s
love in happiness. We should instead
look for them in his faithful and
persistent work to conform us to Christ.”*
How like us to often confuse what is easy with what is best; to settle for crumbs of fleeting felicity when we can instead feast at His table and, like Mary, sit at His feet choosing the “main course” (Luke 10:42, MSG), “the good part” (NASB). But choosing the good part isn’t always a smooth path and our human bent naturally pulls away from embracing discipline or obedience or trust when it comes at the price of our happiness. We are, after all, inclined to look for time saving, pain avoiding ways to do just about everything (spoken as someone who, when given the choice, is all about simplicity). But I’m learning that, while this approach serves so well to effectively expedite a myriad of temporal tasks, in the holy work of heart work, there are no shortcuts, no alternate routes. It’s a lifelong journey, and one that often uncomfortably stretches us and asks that we embrace the long view of things.
“And from my smitten heart
two wonders I confess;
the wonder of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.”
Sitting in church listening to the beautiful hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, I couldn’t get past this one line. No doubt, many find this lyric to be harsh at best. “… my unworthiness”? Did the writer really mean to sound so severe? Ms. Clephane, you’re bringing us down!
RC Sproul helps us understand why this lyric presents such a disconnect in a day when fallen human nature is celebrated and our prideful disobedience placated to unimaginable lengths. He wrote: “Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.” And so, the language of this old hymn seems jarring to contemporary sensibilities and twenty-first century self-awareness and empowerment. But, perhaps the unvarnished words of this hymn should give us pause.
Good morning, friends! From the pen of Thomas Ken, here’s a song for hopeful hearts to sing as we step into a new day. I’ve got to believe our lives will be enriched and our acts of service enlarged when these words mark our devotion, reflect our inclinations, and give rise to worship. Because He is worthy.
Awake, My Soul, And With the Sun
Thomas Ken, 1674
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run
Shake off fluff and joyful rise
To pay thy morning sacrifice.
Wake and lift thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal king.
Direct, control, suggest this day
All I do, desire or say
That all my pow’rs with all their might
In thy glory may unite.
Praise God, praise God all creatures here below
Praise God, praise God from whom all blessings flow.
“If it were possible
for me to alter
any part of His plan,
I could only spoil it.”
What an indelible way with words — here, a humble recognition of how utterly inadequate we are when left to our own devices. But, do we really believe it? Honestly, I’m inclined to say its full meaning is most clear to all the “old souls” out there (you know who you are), regardless of age who have walked through enough to personally own this truth. Paraphrasing Farmer’s Insurance – “You know a thing or two because you’ve seen a thing or two!” Right? I think John Newton was probably an old soul too.
I’m learning a heart full of thanksgiving often shares its space alongside an equal measure of reflection. And here’s something beautiful — giving thanks provides context for the kind of reflecting that honors our Heavenly Father. Without it, our thoughts may wander down paths of ungrateful self indulgence, especially during difficult times. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we’ve been instructed to give thanks in everything (I Thess. 5:18). You see, even a heavy heart can embrace and reflect on the goodness of God in the context of gratitude for who He is and all we know to be true about Him. In ease or in difficulty, His purposes are always for our heart’s protection and soul’s well-being, a beautiful expression of His character and love.
“Father God, help me
see your goodness
and trust your wisdom
in all You purpose today
in my life and in the lives
of those I love.
I came across this prayer a few years ago when we were in the throes of trying to stabilize our daughter’s health. Terrified, not even knowing how to pray, I remember the morning I read it for the first time. Restorative in its simplicity, it was like a breath of fresh air! Little did I know that morning how thankful I would be to have these words in mind just hours later as we sat once again in the doctor’s office, struggling to find answers for our daughter’s desperate need.