The gift of Soli Deo Gloria

soli deo gloria

I got my necklace from Etsy and I love all the work this artist, Mandy England, creates. She’s closed for the holidays, but here’s the link to her business: http://shop.mandyengland.com/

The phrase Soli Deo Gloria, meaning Glory to God alone, is used often at Wheaton Academy, where I have worked for over nine years. In the last year, it has taken on new meaning to me, so much so that I requested a necklace with the phrase on it for my birthday.

A few weeks ago, in a meeting with my boss at WA, we were talking through upcoming articles for the Wheaton Academy website. In a pause in our conversation, we both jumped in and said, “I have a story idea!”

“You go first,” she told me. As I read to her what I’d jotted down in my journal about Soli Deo Gloria, she got excited and finally broke in. “This fits in perfectly with my idea. I want a piece up for Christmas, a gift piece.”

A gift piece. Oh, the two ideas did fit together! Christ’s birth, followed by his life, death, and resurrection, gives us the incredible, unimaginable gift of living for the glory of God!

I expanded my ideas for a piece for the Academy, but what follows are those original thoughts in my journal. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Soli Deo Gloria

This phrase, meaning “Glory to God Alone,” is generally seen as a charge, a challenge, but what we sometimes forget is that, most of all, it is a gift.

A gift from God to us.

You see, we all live for the glory of something: comfort, success, popularity, power, love. At the root of all of them is the desire to glorify self.

What we don’t understand is the pursuit of self will always end in misery.

But when we pursue the glory of God, we experience magnificent joy and immeasurable fulfillment.

Soli Deo Gloria is a gift of God extended through the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, with the Spirit, we can let go of the self-glory that destroys us. We can be captivated by God’s glory, which is great and wonderful and encompasses all. When we give ourselves over to it, we find our lives take on a larger purpose. Every part of our lives and beings, even our failings, weaknesses, and sorrows, is transformed by the glory of God. All will be used for ultimate good. We gain a true perspective of all talents. We learn that in the kingdom of God, kindness, mercy, faithfulness, and thoughtfulness are highly prized.

When we grasp this, we are able to look beyond ourselves to others. We can see the interconnectedness of all our lives. We gain a vision of working with fellow Christians. We value their talents, for we see how they complement our own.

In the light of God’s glory, those old pursuits—comfort, success, popularity, power—are revealed as pale substitutes, and what the world views as “small”—loving relationships, kindness to neighbors, concern for the least, consistently ethical decisions, a choice to live on and with “enough”—these shine with the bright light of eternity.

When we live for the glory of God, we ourselves receive a glory that is out-of-this-world—literally. This is the gift we proclaim. This is the paradoxical truth that sets us free to live each moment with joy and purpose.

In the words of the late Henri Nouwen, “Our little lives become great—part of the mysterious work of God’s salvation. Once that happens, nothing is accidental, casual, or futile any more. Even the most insignificant event speaks the language of faith, hope, and above all, love.”

I simply had to share this with you! I saw this in our neighborhood last week and fortunately had a couple minutes free to pull over and take a shot! Can't you imagine some little one asking for this!

I simply had to share this with you! I saw this in our neighborhood last week and fortunately had a couple minutes free to pull over and take a shot! Can’t you imagine some little one asking for this!

 

Odds and Ends

This is a purposely random post. It includes further thoughts on a recent post; one quote; and one Scripture passage (in three versions) that I found beautiful.

Last weekend, as I was walking just after our first snowfall, I saw this bud lying on the ground. I brought it home, set it in the snow on our patio, and shot a picture. I changed my header picture to this shot because it certainly describes this strange transition of weather we are in. Down to 12 degrees one night, and then five days later it's back up to 50!

Last weekend, as I was walking just after our first snowfall, I saw this bud lying on the ground. I brought it home, set it in the snow on our patio, and shot a picture. I changed my header picture to this shot because it certainly describes this strange transition of weather we are in. Down to 12 degrees one night, and then five days later it’s back up to 50!

1. A couple days after posting the Meanderings on Being piece, I heard a radio interview with James Bryan Smith about his book The Good and Beautiful God. He shared this wonderful illustration from his book: A 19th century Russian Orthodox priest named John of Kronstadt was terribly bothered by the alcoholics he saw passed out in the gutters on his way to the church where he served. Unlike the other priests, he could not simply walk by them. Compelled by love, John would lift up the “hungover, foul-smelling people from the gutter, cradle them in his arms, and say to them, ‘This is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.'” When I heard that amazing story, my mind jumped to my thoughts about the “God-blank” I wrote about in the Meanderings piece. Hmmm. “You were meant to house the fullness of God.” Oh, I like that.

2. If you live in the U.S. and used Google today, you saw the funky artwork at the top with a quote in it from Corita Kent. Here’s the quote:

“To understand is to stand under

which is to look up

which is a good way to understand.”

I like that, too. When I read the Google blurb on Kent (1918-1986), I learned she was a nun, a teacher, and an artist known for contrasting the idea of consumerism with spiritual concepts drawn from her religious background. I found one article on her in which a friend described her as “a Boston lady who understands friendship and ‘who quietly waits for the gentle inner voice to whisper’ where it will take her next.” An artist whose friend described her first in terms of FRIENDSHIP–and then referred to her as a thoughtful artist: that’s a good model!

3. Here are the verses: Psalms 16:5-7. I’m pasting it in here in the Amplified version (of course), but the reference link will take you to a Bible Gateway page with the ESV, Amp, and New Living translation side by side. (I love that tool!). This verse, too, informs my “meanderings on being.”

The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage.

I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.

Thanks for reading.

Jen

Communion: a refresher course in the Gospel

The past three Januarys, I've taught a breadmaking class to Wheaton Academy students. This is one of their jelly rolls (not quite Communion bread but perhaps symbolic of the sweetness and goodness of Christ's sacrifice for us).

The past three Januarys, I’ve taught a breadmaking class to Wheaton Academy students. This is one of their jelly rolls (not quite Communion bread but perhaps symbolic of the sweetness and goodness of Christ’s sacrifice for us).

Communion during my childhood felt like the bridge challenge my brother and I gave ourselves whenever we were on road trips. We’d see a bridge a little ways ahead, breathe fast in-out, in-out, and then, as soon as the car was out over space rather than earth, try to hold our breath till we made it to the other side. Our faces turned pink with the effort; we stared at each other with wide eyes, daring the other to hold on just a little longer; and we sucked in fresh lungsful of air as soon as we were back on solid ground.

Communion in the churches I attended as a child and teen popped up like those bridges. On rare and random Sundays the silver towers of tiny crackers and grape-juice-filled cups betrayed its inclusion in the service.
And I would hold my breath—because “do not take communion in an unworthy manner” had been presented to me as a flagrant sin, and I was terrified of committing it.
First came the searching for past sins. I began at perhaps a week before and scoured my actions and thoughts up to that present moment. Discover-confess; discover-confess.
Then I held on. My main thought—prayer?—was “Don’t do anything. Please, God, don’t let me commit any new sins. Blank mind, blank mind. Don’t look at anyone.”
I simply had to make it till the two silver trays made their way past and the pastor said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Then the wafer was popped in the mouth. Hold it; try to be thankful in that moment—Remember, this is Christ’s sacrifice. A lot of pain went into my forgiveness!—don’t sin, don’t sin —then the juice—and a feeling of guilt at my enjoyment of the sweet taste.
Finally, the release of breath, the feeling that, if I were to sin at that point or thereafter, it wouldn’t be quite as big a deal.
Communion was not celebration; it was ordeal.
Not now.
First, Communion is no longer random—we participate in the Eucharist every Sunday at Church of the Resurrection—and, second, it no longer terrifies me.
This transformation began long before our change in churches. As I began to understand the Gospel more deeply, I understood there is no such thing as being “worthy to take communion,” just as there is no worthiness required or possible to receive salvation. My youthful fear of taking communion lightly actually pushed me into another unworthy way of taking it: as if I could earn it.
Communion at Rez (as attendees affectionately refer to our church) has fleshed this concept out even more. I cannot deny it was a shock to my fundamentally-brought-up soul to see tiny children taking the bread and cup my first Sunday. But week after week, as I watched little ones joyfully bounce up to accept the gifts, something began to resonate within me.
This, this, I wanted to shout one week, is the way to accept it. No pride, no self-awareness, in complete weakness, presenting nothing, simply ACCEPTING.
One Sunday this revelation became even more personal. I was processing a grudge during the sermon, and communion “popped up” for me like an unseen bridge. Suddenly the person next to me stood, and I realized it was our row’s turn to stand and go forward. A bit of the old panic struck. I’d done no preparation at all! How had this crept up on me?
But when I stepped up and the bread was pressed into my open palms, I understood it in yet another new, fresh way! Communion is like a refresher course in the Gospel: God saying, “Remember how helpless you were. Look at what I did to rescue you! You couldn’t prepare for it then. You can’t earn it now. Keep living in that truth! This is what leads to true gratitude and celebration!”
Like the children, I have nothing to offer, nothing to exchange, and I never will. I come forward, again and again, with a confidence that is based solely in Christ.
I simply accept the Gift.

Story Sharing

See the note at the bottom of the post for more information about Cafe K'Tizo.

See the note at the bottom of the post for more information about Cafe K’Tizo.

This morning I interviewed Kertes, a Wheaton Academy (WA) alumna who is now a student at Wheaton College, for a story I’m writing about WA’s international students (Kertes was one). I picked her up from her dorm and we drove to Café K’Tizo, where we enjoyed coconut matchas (Kertes’s suggestion) and she answered all my questions.
One of them was about her journey to faith in Christ. She began her answer by going back to her sophomore year, her first year at the Academy. She recounted how all the talk about Jesus that she heard in her Bible class and chapel and at church was new to her. “I didn’t know the deep meaning behind it,” she said. “I just thought it was something people did.” Her initial surprise and interest soon gave way to questions. She became defensive and confused by the gap she often saw between what Christians said they should do and actually did.
Her difficulties grew during her junior year, a tough year filled with pressures from a rigorous class load, college decisions, and troubles in her living situation. By the end of it, she was more than ready for summer break. “It will all be better when I get home,” she thought. And it was—but not quite. She did enjoy the deep relationship she has with her parents and good connections with friends, but somehow these weren’t enough. The very things she had thought would make her happy again, didn’t. “Something was still missing,” she said, and she found herself watching the non-Christians who surrounded her. She saw that they, too, were experiencing a deep emptiness.
When she returned to the States for her senior year, she went to church and a miracle happened. Christianity suddenly made sense to her. “I realized nothing else would ever fulfill me, only Jesus. All the knowledge I’d learned came back to me, and I was overwhelmed. I cried that morning in church and then took communion. That was when I came to the Lord. I realized I still didn’t understand everything about Christianity, but I believed it.”
Her life still had its pressures, but as she took those to God in prayer, she experienced His comfort. “My relationship with Christ gave me peace, and it changed me. I began looking at others’ needs rather than just my own.”
When she told her parents of her decision to become a Christian, her father shared with her that his own father, whom he never met, had been one, too. “That made me feel amazed,” Kertes said, “about how God had been working in my life.”
Our time was up then, and when we stood to go, Kertes thanked me. “No,” I said,” “Thank you. I love getting to hear testimonies of how God draws people to Himself.”
She smiled. “But it was also encouraging to me, to get to tell it and remember God’s work all over again.”
I dropped her off at the College and then drove home, her words running through my head. I was reminded of a conversation I had last spring during a meeting at church. Each person attending had shared a short testimony of seeing God’s faithfulness, and after the meeting, the young man sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I need this. When I’m in my everyday, individual life, I struggle with doubts and fears. Sometimes I wonder if Christianity is really true. What I’m experiencing individually doesn’t seem like it’s enough. But when we come together, proclaiming the faith and sharing all our stories of God working in us, it affirms reality. I am encouraged by others’ stories and reminded of God’s work past and present.”
An image jumped into my mind. “It’s like the stones the Israelites dropped in the river Jordan as they crossed into the Promised Land. One stone dropped in would barely make a ripple, but one after another, all together, the pile of them disrupted the flow of the river. My own stone of remembering God’s work for me is often not enough to disrupt the flow of my doubts and fears. But when you drop your stone on top of mine, and then another person does, and another, my doubts get disrupted, and the Truth is evident.”
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote, “For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish you; that is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Paul, the great apostle, understood that his own faith benefited when he heard others’ testimonies.
Let’s share stones of remembrance with each other today.

*I’m plugging here for Café K’Tizo, which is owned and operated by Judy and Bruce Duncan, who love Jesus and love people of all cultures and have combined their loves [including tea, of course] in this absolutely wonderful café/teashop. If you’re in the Wheaton area, check it out; if not, you can order K’Tizo teas online.

sermon suggestion

I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller’s sermons lately. He’s senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. I wanted to share this one: The Basis of Prayer: “Our Father.” 

It’s a reminder of the heart of the Gospel, but it also goes deep, so as I listened to it, I was drawn back to my own helplessness and God’s provision for it but was also wowed with some new insights into this great mystery.

Keller says that the words “Our Father” remind us that God does not want His children coming to Him in pride (“You owe me, God, because of all I’ve done”) OR in shame (“I don’t measure up. I keep trying, but I just can’t.”) Both attitudes come from thinking of our relationship with God as a “business relationship,”  one in which both parties must perform. The only basis on which followers of Christ can approach God is in a child-to-parent relationship. Keller expounds on this with some wonderful insights and gives descriptors of ways we may have slipped into thinking of our relationship with God as business rather than family.

I especially recommend this sermon (35 minutes in length) if you are struggling or have struggled with feeling you must “measure up” for God.

Longing for the Presence

Elisabeth Elliot wrote that a clam glorifies God better than we do because the clam is doing what it was created to do, and we are not. I thought of that quote when I saw this picture I took of a dragonfly, basking in the sunlight--just as we were meant to rejoice in the presence of God.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote that a clam glorifies God better than we do because the clam is doing what it was created to do, and we are not. I thought of that quote when I saw this picture I took of a dragonfly, basking in the sunlight–just as we were meant to rejoice in the presence of God.

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Moses said that. It’s recorded in Exodus 33, just after the Israelites rebelled against God by worshipping the golden calf. Despite this flagrant sin, God extends mercy. He tells them He will still send them to the “land flowing with milk and honey” with angels clearing the way ahead of them, “But I will not go with you,” He says, “because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

Moses has been experiencing the presence of God, though, in some incredible ways. God’s presence was a visible cloud by day and a fire by night. Moses went into the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke with him there “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Moses has gotten a taste of God in His reality, and he doesn’t want to give it up.

So he pushes back against God’s pronouncement. He says, ““You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Moses refused to live without the presence of God in his everyday life.

That sentence has stuck in my mind for months, and I’ve wondered what it would be like to walk through my days in the presence of God.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I was reading the Amplified version of Hebrews, and I got to the section where the writer expounds on Christ’s qualifications to be our High Priest, our go-between, the one who offers the worthy sacrifice as well as being the sacrifice Himself. Christ’s petition as High Priest was heard, it says in Heb. 5:7, “because of His reverence toward God.” Then the Amplified adds this explanatory phrase: “in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father.”

I immediately thought of Moses’ protest.

Moses experienced just a taste of God’s presence, and he couldn’t live without it. In fact, it made him want more. Further on in Exodus 33, he begs to see God’s glory, and God reminds him that while he is in his earthly, death-bound body, he can’t see all of it.

But God covers him with His hand and passes behind him and still, despite the “protection,” Moses’ face shines so much the Israelites are afraid of him.

Christ, as God Himself, and as a human in complete fellowship with God the Father, had experienced far more than Moses. He knew the fullness of God’s bright presence, and “life” without it was a “horror.” No independence (like that offered to Christ by Satan during His temptation) was worth that horror.

Yet we live with this horror every day. We chose this horror in the garden, when humanity turned away from the presence of God and sought independence from His presence. We’ve been doing the same ever since, and the longing for and joy we were meant to experience in God’s presence has been turned to fear and hiding and even loathing. You might say we were given what we asked for.

Yet, through Christ, the perfect High Priest who longed to stay in God’s presence continually—and did, we have the opportunity, like Moses, to long for God’s presence again, to even boldly ask for it! F. B. Meyer, in his book Moses, the Servant of God, wrote, “The apostle Paul expressly refers to this incident when he says that we all may, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord, and be transformed (II Cor. 3:13-18). That blessed vision, which of old was given only to the great leader of Israel, is now within reach of each individual believer. The Gospel has no fences to keep the crowd off the mount of vision; the lowliest and most unworthy of its children may pass upward where the shining glory is to be seen. ‘We all… are changed.’”

Through Christ we can long for God again. We can understand that our deepest desperation is not a need for independence or personal significance but is in actuality a desire for the living Presence of God.

And through Christ we have the opportunity to enter that Presence.

Let’s take it.

They shall know we are His…

Can I see God in pain?
In the eye-closing brilliance of a warm sun, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the sound of a child’s laughter: symbols of what is “well” in this world, I see God. His goodness, beauty, sweetness.
But in pain?
Do I see God when I contemplate—or actually see—those trapped in poverty or sex slavery or sweatshops or starvation?
Do I see God in someone struggling with mental illness, addiction, or great physical pain?
What about in grief? When a family loses a beloved child, a woman her spouse?
In natural disasters, birth defects, and broken relationships?
Do I see God then?
I know—He says it plain—that suffering was not part of His design for us. The garden was replete with purpose, goodness, wholeness.
But that is not the world we live in. So, does His beauty shine in pain? In the brokenness of this world and its people?
Or could it shine through?
When we look into heartache, what bears the most beauty is when those outside the deepest circle of pain enter in it. They open their hearts and arms; they give of their time and money, and they step into the trouble, into the mess, into the nitty-gritty.
We smile through our tears when we see this happen, or, in the deepest of grief, we nod in gratitude—that the brokenness is not reigning supreme, that an unselfish choice (or, more likely, a whole series of them) is beating back the insistent darkness. Selfishness is innate to all of us, so we know that to choose discomfort over comfort—when comfort is an option—is not natural.
It must come from above.
It must, just as it did when Christ did this for us, “stepping in” for us, bearing the full force of God’s justice.
His beauty shone through pain on the cross.
And when we follow Him in this act, bearing others’ “crosses,” stepping into the trouble of others, His beauty shines forth again.
How shall they know we are His?
By love.
His love.

Cousin Seth giving Maddie a ride on their tree swing--always a huge hit!

Cousin Seth giving Maddie a ride on their tree swing–always a huge hit!

The piece above was started a year ago, just after I returned from a trip to Africa. I begin a new journal every school year (a new Word document), and that piece has greeted me every time I opened my journal for the past twelve months. I’ve tinkered with it throughout the year, and it bears the influence of the events of those months.

My kids with cousin Michael and Uncle Dan (back left) and one of their friends just after the five kids went zip-lining.

My kids with cousin Michael and Uncle Dan (back left) and one of their friends just after the five kids went zip-lining.

I’ve just returned from another trip, this time a journey by car to family in the Southeast, East Coast, and the Midwest. It’s been a wonderful trip, completely worth the 40 hours we spent in the car. Yesterday, when I opened my journal and looked at the piece above yet again, I realized that I saw evidence of that very kind of love in each of the homes I’ve visited on this trip. Each one does have interests in other countries, with the poorest of the poor, with those unreached by the Gospel. They give; they go; they send; they serve.

My four kids with cousins Michael and Lucy and my sister Lynda

My four kids with cousins Michael and Lucy and my sister Lynda

But the testimony that stood out most to me is the way they have allowed their very homes to be used. Each has set aside the American dream of the home being a castle: undisturbed, controlled, and, most importantly, “MINE and for my comfort.” The pattern of their lives and their homes are often in states of disruption because they’ve set aside this dream. The invasion of our family of six was only a minor blip of disturbance to them because they’ve had singles/couples/families settle in for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. And they do it over and over, whenever God brings a need to their attention and puts it on their hearts.

PJ and cousin Grace giving a stirring performance during a karaoke afternoon.

PJ and cousin Grace giving a stirring performance during a karaoke afternoon.

I was talking with one of them about this, and she said, “I’m learning that disruption is good for me. Discomfort is good. It shakes me up. It makes me come face to face with my own issues and shortcomings and brings me to the end of myself. Stagnation and holding tight to what is ‘mine’ does no good for my soul.”
This kind of hospitality can be downright sticky. The outcomes often aren’t smooth-edged and wrapped with a bow. They’ve sometimes turned their lives—

my kids with cousins Sarah, Grace, and Anna

my kids with cousins Sarah, Grace, and Anna

and the lives of their families—upside down.
But they’ve stepped in and loved.
And it’s so very clear they are His.

a suggested read

I link all Scripture references I use in my posts to Bible Gateway. If you haven’t used the resource before, it’s an excellent online tool. It’s not only easy to search for a particular Scripture or theme or key word, you can also view the same verse in multiple versions (and languages), listen to it read aloud, and read commentary on it.

Bible Gateway also has an excellent blog, contributed to by its own staff and guest writers. The common theme, of course, is that each and every post has to do with Scripture.

All of that to say, I found this great post on the BG blog this morning related to the book of Job (which fascinates me more and more as I grow older), and I thought I would pass it on. It’s titled “Job is a Book About Jesus: an Interview with Christopher Ash.”

Hope you enjoy!

Not an Agent

I took this shot the other night when the kids were doing sparklers.

I took this shot the other night when the kids were doing sparklers.

I am in the process of getting my young adult (YA) novel ready for submission to an agent. I’ve created an entire file full of synopses and “back of the book” blurbs of different lengths, character descriptions, chapter summaries, market analyses, etc,–all the elements different agents want in the proposals writers send to them.

In the middle of writing all these documents, I realized I must also trim the novel itself because right now its word count—which is often required on the first page of the proposal—is long enough that many agents won’t even read all those other carefully crafted pieces—or the manuscript itself.

When I told my husband this, he protested (sweet man). “What if it needs to be that long? What if it actually decreases its quality to shorten it?”

Years of cutting news and magazine articles down to word count specifications make me doubtful of that. A good cutting generally clears the fluff so the essential and good stand out more clearly.

Besides, the question of quality is moot. I read my husband this quote from Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest:

“Agents have so many queries that they are looking for reasons to say no. They are looking for mistakes, chinks in the armor, to cut their query stack down by one. And if you adopt the mentality that your book has to be long, then you are giving them ammunition to reject you.”

I transition here to the real point of this blog post.

As I was cutting last week, feeling a bit overwhelmed and very uncertain, I thought, “Oh, God, I am so thankful you are not like an agent!”

It’s true! God is not looking for reasons to turn us away, to narrow the field.

He is longing, in fact, to accept us, all of us, with open arms. He calls for us.

But as I thought about this more, I realized I/we act as though God were an agent.

Following his quote above, Chuck Sambuchino went on to say that writers can, of course, assume that all the fine points of their manuscript will outweigh the flaws, that agents will be so amazed by them, they will overlook the too-long word count or editing errors or…

We do the same with God. We come speaking of our tidy editing, acceptable word counts, stunning plot, or brilliant characters; we spread chapter summaries, 35- 50- and 75-word summaries, a 2-page synopsis, character descriptions, and a back-of-book blurb out on the table.

We pretend God is an agent we must impress.

We pretend we can impress Him.

Agents’ requirements remind me of the Old Testament Law, which Hebrews tells us could never make us perfect and Galatians calls “our guardian until Christ came.”

When we continue to live under the Law, coming to God with hands full of our offerings, our work, He will not accept any of it; He rejects it because every bit of it is flawed.

But here is an incredible difference: He hopes we will agree with His assessment.

Because that is the one thing, the only thing, that will gain us entrance with God: our acknowledgment that we need His provision (Christ), that we are incapable of producing anything acceptable.

He wants us to cry out in desperation for Him.

When we do, He crushes us in His arms.

Because though He can’t accept our work, doesn’t want our work…

He does want us.

When praying stretches long

Just for fun--When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

Just for fun–When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

If you are praying, like I am, for a loved one to turn to Christ’s open arms, and that praying has stretched now for years, even decades, don’t give up hope. Remember that our God does not save because we turn to Him. Rather He saves because He longs to draw human hearts to Himself, to their right place of belonging in Him. He is not reluctant to save, and His love for our dear ones is far greater than our own.

I have been encouraged by Psalm 107 in this, and I would like to share it. Psalm 107 is a message for the redeemed: it includes the well-known phrase “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Less well-known are the words that follows that phrase: “whom He has delivered from the hand of the adversary.”

As the rest of the psalm then describes, God is very creative and masterful in His methods of delivery, no matter who or what the adversary is. Verses 3-5 depict people wandering without a home. Rather than providing them with a home, God allows them to suffer, longing for shelter, until “…they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” In Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this psalm, he wrote, “Not till they were in extremities did they pray…(but) supplications which are forced out of us by stern necessity are none the less acceptable with God.” Is your loved one trying one thing after another to find satisfaction, and each thing fails? This disappointment may very well be the means of causing them to cry out to God for help, though, at first, they may cry out against Him.

Verses 10-12 speak of people in direct rebellion against God. They “spurned the counsel of the Most High.” God again used difficulties to bring them to a place of helplessness, but in that place they, too, cried out!

Verses 17 and 18 speak of those who are sick because of sin, but I also see in these verses a description of depression. These people take no joy in anything; they want to die. Yet in verse 19, they, too cry out.

Verses 23 and 24 describe those who are very much the opposite. They are busy with work and making money. They have experienced positive results, and they don’t see these as gifts from God but as effects of their own efforts. It takes a storm in their lives to reveal to them that their own wisdom and capabilities cannot save them. They, too, cry out.

And God, in each situation, draws near and delivers.

My own grandfather, a self-made man with a lot of rebellion in him, resisted God his entire life, despite the prayers of my grandmother and mother. But on his deathbed, this man, who had always insisted he would choose his own destiny, was confronted with eternity, and he cried out.

I am grateful for the story of the thief on the cross next to Christ. His cry, just before death—much like my grandfather’s—was answered, and we have that answer written down in Scripture. “This day you will be with me in Paradise,” Jesus told him, and this gives me certainty my grandfather received the same answer. What a gift!

We may be praying for a rebel, a wanderer, one struggling with mental or emotional issues, or a very successful person.

God is willing and able to draw each one.

Keep praying that they will cry out. (Galatians 6:9)

And be assured that God will answer.