A Child’s Prayer

13 12 2014

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.

Fain I would to Thee be brought,
Dearest God, forbid it not;
Give me, dearest God, a place
In the Kingdom of Thy grace.

Put Thy hands upon my head,
Let me in Thine arms be stayed,
Let me lean upon Thy breast,
Lull me, lull me, Lord to rest.

Hold me fast in Thine embrace,
Let me see Thy smiling face,
Give me, Lord, Thy blessings give,
Pray for me, and I shall live.

Lamb of God, I look to Thee,
Thou shalt my example be;
Thou art gentle, meek, and mild,
Thou wast once a little child.

Fain I would be as Thou art,
Give me Thy obedient heart;
Thou art pitiful and kind,
Let me have Thy loving mind.

Let me, above all, fulfil
God my heavenly Father’s will,
Never His good Spirit grieve;
Only to His glory live.

Thou didst live to God alone,
Thou didst never seek Thine own,
Thou Thyself didst never please:
God was all Thy happiness.

Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In Thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Saviour, what Thou art,
Live Thyself within my heart.

I shall then show forth Thy praise,
Serve Thee all my happy days;
Then the world shall always see
Christ, the Holy Child, in me.

 

Charles Wesley’s poem hearkens further back to a brief story contained in the New Testament. Here it is, as presented in one of the three Gospels that record it:

 

Mark 10:13-16  Lexham English Bible (LEB)

 And they were bringing young children to him so that he could touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the young children come to me. Do not forbid them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a young child will never enter into it.”  And after taking them into his arms, he blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Wesley’s poem also hearkens to a brief, but potent teaching contained in three of the four Gospels. Here is one rendering:

Matthew 18:1-4  Lexham English Bible (LEB)

At that time the disciples came up to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling a child to himself, he had him stand in their midst and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn around and become like young children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven! Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child, this person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

(2012 by Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software)

What Jesus is saying in His teaching is that a person must recognize his/her utter dependence on God the Heavenly Father. The human being is as dependent upon God as a little child is dependent upon his/her father and mother. A child may tell his parents, “I want my own way,” or “I can do it myself,” or more simply, “No!” But doing so is folly; it is foolish and as deadly as letting a child play with matches or a loaded gun or sharp knives.

Note: childlike does not mean

  • naïve,
  • simplistic,
  • ignorant,
  • uneducated,
  • unsophisticated,
  • juvenile,
  • gullible,
  • immature, and/or
  • puerile

 

Childlike does mean

  • trusting and
  • guileless

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The Just Shall Live By Faith

2 07 2014

 

If it can be said that the Bible contains a prime directive, it would be this: as Jesus said, and as it is written, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(1)  It is the Triune God who gives love its existence and its significance. Without the Triune God there is no such thing as love. Our love for God gives us the motivation to love others ― properly ― and to love even ourselves ― properly. Proper love for ourselves and our neighbors proves our love for God.

Love is work; it is action. Such action is enabled by faith, faith in the God who is the fount of love, who is Love itself.

And what is faith? As it is written, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (2)  Faith as revealed to us via the prophets and the apostles is belief, and more than belief; it is also devotion, fidelity, conviction, and fealty. It is trusting obedience and obedient trust.

What else is written about faith?

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (3)

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (4)

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ” (5)

“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (6)

Indeed, one may say that one means of expressing love to and for God is by exercising faith in Him, His Word, His will, and His way.

Here is an illustration.

Casey may say to his young son Henry, “Here. Eat this. It tastes good, and it’s good for you.” And Henry  says, “Of course it is. I know exactly what’s in it. Whole-grain wheat, barley, rye, oats, and corn. Soybeans. Yeast.  Bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. Curds and whey. Eggs. Sunflower seeds. Nectar.” And he eats it.

Or Casey may say to Henry, “Here. Eat this. It tastes good, and it’s good for you.” And Henry says, “What is it?” Casey says, “That’s exactly what it is: manna. (7) Eat it.” Now Henry has a choice, to eat or not to eat. He doesn’t know what manna is, but because he loves his father, and because love for his father orients on his father’s love and care and provision for him, plus his father’s knowledge and wisdom, plus his father’s talents, skills, and abilities, Henry chooses to eat the manna.

In both scenarios, Casey’s love for his son is expressed in his provision of food for Henry’s health and welfare. In which scenario, though, is Henry’s love for his father better or more meaningfully expressed?

In the first scenario, Henry’s orientation is more on himself as subject than on his father as object. “I know,” he says to himself. “It’s only rational, logical, and sensible of me to eat this food.” Here, leaning on his own understanding, Henry helps himself.

It is written, “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.  But whoever loves God is known by God.” An alternate reading of the last two sentences says, “Those who think they have knowledge do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves truly knows.” (8)

In the second scenario, Henry’s orientation is more on his father as object than on himself as subject.  “I don’t know,” he realizes. Nevertheless, because he trusts his father, Henry eats. He accepts the helping offered by his father.

It is written, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (9)  In the first scenario, Henry is more selfish; he receives. In the second scenario, Henry is less selfish; he receives, but he also gives. What does he give? Not just belief, not just assent. It would not have been enough for Henry to say to his father, “I believe you,” and yet refuse to eat. Henry acts on his belief by eating manna. Active trust, it’s something every parent wants in a child. Active trust is an expression of love any child can give.

God wants every one of His children to express love for Him, not just by mere belief, and not just by mere obedience, but by trusting obedience. “Trust Me,” God says.  As Jesus the Son of God says, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (10)

Alas, as the prophets and apostles have taught, we are all like Henry acting according to a third scenario. “No! I won’t eat that, that … whatever it is. I don’t trust you. And I won’t trust you. I can figure this out for myself, and I figure that stuff, whatever it is, is garbage. I don’t want you. I don’t need you. I can provide for myself.” Now, how loving is that?

Faith ―informed, enlightened, existential faith ― persuades Henry to eat what his father provides. In so doing, he comes to know what is in the manna, and he comes to know his father better.

It is written:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (11)

Even those who have had close encounters with God, whether once or more than once, must nevertheless continue to exercise faith.  This side of the coming Kingdom, one can never say, “I have graduated from faith; beyond the shadow of a doubt, I know … absolutely.” Such a person is already being deceived and is in danger of dreadful diabolical assault. Such a person is also likely to receive further lessons in faith from God. Think of Job. Think also of Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah. Think of the entire Hebrew nation after the Exodus.

Remember Simon Peter? With fellow apostles James and John, he witnessed the glorious transfiguration of Christ. (12) Yet what did Jesus say to him later?  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail….” (13) Simon Peter did fail, but not for long. Jesus’ prayer was answered in a glorious affirmative; in faith, Peter became first among equals.

Consider, too, the prophet John the Baptist. If anyone could say he had a close encounter with God, John could. Indeed, when he baptized his kinsman Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River, he was exposed not only to God the Son, but also to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit: the Triune God. Moreover, John proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Lamb of God. But then John was arrested for some unequivocally incorrect political speech. Suffering in prison, he sent two disciples to Jesus with the question, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (14)

Why would John, of all people, ask such a question? Wasn’t he familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah that predicted his own ministry? Hadn’t he already heard? Didn’t he already know?

And what did Jesus do? Did He go to that prison and appear before John as He did to Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration? Did He reveal to John those twelve legions of angels in a manner similar to God’s revealing His army of fire to the prophet Elisha and his servant? Did Jesus then give John a clear and incontrovertible answer, saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah, the Son of man and the Son of God”?

Instead, Jesus says, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (15)

Jesus does not provide John with absolute proof, though He could have done so. If anyone was worthy of such a revelation, based upon what Jesus said about him after his two disciples left, it was John the Baptist. (16)  Jesus rather insists that John consider the evidence, evidence that can be seen and heard in the here and now, evidence that fulfills prophecies recorded in the past.  This is evidence that can convince the mind of the truth of the Gospel and thereby produce belief and induce certainty of judgment.  Jesus insists that John exercise ― that is, continue to exercise ― faith.

Why? Consider another definition of proof: an effort, process, or operation designed to establish or discover a fact or truth; an act of testing; a test; a trial. Faith proves us.  Faith proves the mettle of our love of God while it improves the mettle of our love for God and for our neighbors.

And what of those of us who never have a close encounter with God? As Jesus said to Thomas and the other apostles, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (17)  We, too, consider the evidence, both natural and supernatural, both Biblical and extra-Biblical. We, too, accept on faith the advice of the prophet Azariah, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (18)

 

  1. Matthew 22:36-40  Deuteronomy 6:4-5    Leviticus 19:34
  2. Hebrews 11:1
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:7
  4. Hebrews 11:6
  5. Romans 1:17   Habakkuk  2:4   Galatians 3:11
  6. Hebrews 10:38
  7. Exodus 16:14-35
  8. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
  9. Acts 20:35
  10. Matthew 18:3   Mark 10:15   Luke 18:17
  11. Jeremiah 9:23-24
  12. Matthew 17:1-13   Mark 9:2-13   Luke 9:28-36
  13. Luke 22:31-32
  14. Luke 7:19
  15. Luke 7:22-23
  16. Luke 7:24-29
  17. John 20:26-29
  18. 2 Chronicles 15:2   Jeremiah 29:13-14   1 Chronicles 28:9

 

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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A Blind Man’s Light

16 02 2014

Hail holy light, offspring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Co-eternal beam
May I express thee unblamed? Since God is Light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from Eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? Before the sun,
Before the heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap’t the Stygian Pool, though long detain’d
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne
With other notes then to th’ Orphean lyre
I sung of Chaos and eternal night,
Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sov’reign vital lamp; but thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quenched their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veiled. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear Spring, or shady Grove, or Sunny Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flow’ry Brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget
Those other two equal’d with me in Fate,
So were I equal’d with them in renown.
Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus prophets old.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of ev’n or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of Natures works to me expung’d and razed,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

John Milton

For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy Light shall we see light. O continue Thy loving-kindness unto them that know Thee; and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.  (Psalm 38:9-10)

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November Prayer

15 11 2013

Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.

A few incisive mornings,
A few ascetic eyes, —
Gone Mr. Bryant’s golden-rod,
And Mr. Thomson’s sheaves.

Still is the bustle in the brook,
Sealed are the spicy valves;
Mesmeric fingers softly touch
The eyes of many elves.

Perhaps a squirrel may remain,
My sentiments to share.
Grant me, O Lord, a sunny mind,
Thy windy will to bear!

Emily Dickinson

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Yet If His Majesty…

8 08 2013

Yet if his majesty our sovereign lord
Should of his own accord
Friendly himself invite,
And say “I’ll be your guest to-morrow night.”
How should we stir ourselves, call and command
All hands to work! “Let no man idle stand.
Set me fine Spanish tables in the hall,
See they be fitted all;
Let there be room to eat,
And order taken that there want no meat.
See every sconce and candlestick made bright,
That without tapers they may give a light.
Look to the presence: are the carpets spread,
The dazie o’er the head,
The cushions in the chairs,
And all the candles lighted on the stairs?
Perfume the chambers, and in any case
Let each man give attendance in his place.”
Thus if the king were coming would we do,
And ’twere good reason too;
For ’tis a duteous thing
To show all honour to an earthly king,
And after all our travail and our cost,
So he be pleas’d, to think no labour lost.
But at the coming of the King of Heaven
All’s set at six and seven:
We wallow in our sin,
Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain him always like a stranger,
And as at first still lodge him in the manger.

Thomas Ford
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock!
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”  
Revelation 3:20 (LEB)

 





To Keep A True Lent

19 03 2013

Is this a fast, to keep 
                The larder lean? 
                            And clean 
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish 
                Of flesh, yet still 
                            To fill 
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour, 
                Or ragg’d to go, 
                            Or show 
A downcast look and sour?

No; ‘tis a fast to dole 
                Thy sheaf of wheat, 
                            And meat, 
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife, 
                From old debate 
                            And hate; 
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent; 
                To starve thy sin, 
                            Not bin; 
And that’s to keep thy Lent. 

Robert Herrick