His name was Samuel Rutherford. He wasn’t perfect but he was a man of rare love. Love that was forged in the fire.
Samuel was an extremely dedicated Scottish minister in the 1600’s. He deeply cared for those in his care, and was dearly loved by his congregation in return. But even early in his ministry he was faced with heartbreak. After being married for a short 4 years, his precious wife became very ill and after battling with the illness for 13 months, died. Shortly afterwards, two of their three children and his mother also died. He was left alone and in very ill health himself to take care of his remaining child and care for his parish.
His trials didn’t end there. A few years later he was banished from his parish and exiled far from his beloved congregation because of his faithfulness to what he believed. This was exceedingly difficult for him. If there was anything he loved to do it was to expand the beauty of his Jesus to the people in his care. Now he was separated from them and prohibited from preaching.
The political situation in Scotland changed several years later and he was allowed to continue his ministry. During this time he remarried and he and his new wife had five children. It would seem that things had finally changed for the better. But not for long. Two of his dear children died as infants. Two more died while he was away in London. Before his own death at the age of 61, all of his children from both marriages had died. I can’t even begin to imagine what his father’s heart went through.
The way he related to this life of bitter experiences is clear from his own words…
“Think it not hard if you get not your will, nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but Himself.”
And again… “they lose nothing who gain Christ."
Spurgeon later quoted from one of his letters saying,
“dear Samuel Rutherford, when he wrote to a lady who had lost, I think, seven children, congratulated her and said, “I am sure that the well-Beloved has a strong affection for your ladyship, for He will have all your heart. He has taken away all these children that there may not be a nook or corner for anybody else but Him.”
His heart was captured by the love of the infinite. He willingly confessed that he was not his own…
“Since He looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it.”
To lose all on earth was considered a very small sacrifice indeed to gain Christ. He wanted nothing but Jesus… Jesus was heaven.
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee it would be hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.
I can’t help but be struck by such a love. It makes me examine my own. Is He really all I want? Is He my heaven?
So often I seem to think I deserve things here on earth… you know, that certain things are my right and it’s not fair if I don’t have them. And then I remember… I deserve nothing. Nothing but death. But because He loved me so much, He bore that for me and gave me the greatest gift in the universe— Himself. And I dare to think I deserve something more?
Oh my soul, claim nothing as your own.
For you there is God and God alone.
And really what could be sweeter? If I lose all I count dear, I still have Him… if I am called to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He comes too… if I am asked to pour myself out for His people and receive nothing in return, He will give me Himself.
How can anything but gratitude ever formulate in my heart?
God alone! God alone!
In Your courts, oh my Lord, is my home
You are my treasure, my portion delight of my soul
My life, my salvation, my fortress
My God and my all.
I want Him to be my heaven. Nothing but Him. Because if it is, who says heaven can’t start now and increase in sweetness every time I’m called to bear a burden because in bearing it I find more of His heart?
Spurgeon again quotes Rutherford…
“…he speaks of the coals of divine wrath all falling upon the head of Christ, so that not one might fall upon His people. ‘And yet,’ saith he, ‘if one of those coals should drop from His head upon mine and did utterly consume me, yet if I felt it was a part of the coals that fell upon Him, and I was bearing it for His, and in communion with Him, I would choose it for my heaven. ‘“
Oh heart. Be still and think. Could I say that? Or do I still want things for myself?
or can I sing...
Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be,
More love oh Christ to Thee
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee.
I’m willing to learn to claim nothing as my own. I want God and God alone.
Jesus, mold our hearts so that you are all the heaven we want…
Because, after all, we are all the heaven You want.
Sometimes we get into our little routines of day to day life and forget that there is something better. At least I do. Peaceful early mornings give way to the day’s to do list, and before I know it, the sun’s already set. And though I’m blessed beyond what I’ll ever know to spend my days with the best Friend there ever was-- a focus on today alone is a sad mistake.
I often find myself becoming content with the glory of living life with my Jesus and forget that living this life with Him is not the only goal. True love will never be content with anything but being as close as possible.
He reminded me gently the other day when I was praying and thanking Him for all the gifts He’s given. I’d journaled simple… “Good morning Jesus! I’m so happy to get to spend this day with you. I am so excited about all the things we are going to get to do together in the next month. I can’t wait to be in England. I love that place and I’m so very thankful that I get to take you with me. What could be better?
Gentle voice whispers... The moment when I can have you here with Me and you can feel My strong arms around you… the day when we can walk arm in arm along the streets of gold… the wonder on your face as you see it all for the first time… the tears in your eyes as you realize all I left for you and how much more deeply I loved you than you could ever know… a ceaseless eternity, face to face and together with no barriers…
Oh. Deep breath. Yeah. How did I forget? Of course.
It’s easy to get so consumed in the here and now that I forget there is a future. I forget there is more. I forget this is the journey and not my home. I forget that even this sweetness is only a taste of the best that is yet to come.
Catastrophes have a way of shaking us awake to the future. When I hear of little four-year old Muna Puri from Nepal who was playing outside when the ground began to shake underneath her and the buildings began to sway above her and finally collapse on top of her, I remember that this is not home. No one even knows where her crumpled little lifeless body is right now. Her mother just knows she's somewhere under all the rubble from those buildings… that the house they just took out a loan to build is a mess of stones all over the street… that she has nothing left. Nothing here. And there’s thousands more with such stories… with the death toll over 5,000, at least 8,000 seriously hurt and 8,000,000 heavily affected, the pain has to be unimaginable.
I walk through grassy fields and my heart burns. How could I have thought that this was all I wanted? How can I be so content on this broken little planet? How can I rest until I can throw myself into His arms? How can love be satisfied until it is as close as possible?
Sabbath morning the visiting pastor with greying hair shares how he never thought he would marry or have children before Jesus came and now he is an old man with grandchildren. His elderly friends are passing away, and he wants to go home. That’s when it hit me. I’ve never really thought I’d ever have my own children either. I thought He’d be here by then. What if I grow old and He still hasn’t come?
And sure, that’s not what He wants. He’s more desperate to come than I ever could be to have Him here.
But the truth sinks in… He can’t come until we fulfill His command and shout to every corner of the earth that He is God, and He is good, and His love knows no limits, and He is able to save to the very uttermost boundaries of the earth…
What are we waiting for? If we love Him, why aren’t we doing everything in our power to share that love? Why aren’t we living for the day when we’ll be forever reunited?
Instead of that, we often forget that there even is a heaven to come. We live for today. We do our own tasks and claim to be too busy to do His work.
Wait a minute. What are we even here for if it’s not His work? What is the point of today if it isn’t to love Him and share that love with His people?
It’s not all about living for now. We’re living for a brighter, sweeter, eternity than we can ever grasp here. Sure, I believe in treasuring today, but not at the expense of living for eternity. Today is a tool to bring us closer to home.
I can’t imagine living my whole life and growing old here. I can’t imagine not seeing Him for that long. I can’t be content to always live here on earth with Him in heaven, even if there is a strong connection between. This world is not my home… I don’t want to live like it is.
I can’t ignore those pleading eyes that tell of an even greater desire to be together on His part.
I can’t let my life consume me. It’s not about my to do list-- what I have to get done before the day is over. It’s about Yours… what You have to get done before You can come. I want my generation to see. I want to see myself. I can’t bear thinking that we will sit back and let the years roll by and be consumed with our own tiny stories. Please teach us to live for Your story. Give us a zeal that will be unstoppable to do our part for that day to come. Teach us what it means to love. Then we will know what it means to really live.
We’d only been climbing for an hour or so and I literally felt like I couldn’t go much further. It seemed like every hill I fought to get up would only give way to another one twice it’s size. We’d still had no glimpse of where we were actually going. I just wanted to know how close we were… how many more miles we had left to climb… how many more hundreds/thousands of feet I still had to battle up…
I didn’t know all I had gotten myself into… I did know that when we’d set off from the parking lot that morning to climb a mountain I still couldn’t see I felt a little fear and trepidation about the adventure.
It wasn’t until we’d mounted the hill I never thought I’d get up, and the landscape opened up in front of me, that it hit me. Sure, we had a very long way to go… yeah, that mountain in the distance with the snow on top was the one we were supposed to climb… true, we had to walk along an edge for an hour with a death fall on both sides… yes, my feet felt blistered and sore… But the question wouldn’t leave my mind and somehow it spurred me on—like somehow all the gusto I poured into climbing that mountain was a bit of an answer…
How high would I climb to fall into His embrace? How hard would I fight to see His face?
Maybe it’s fear that stops us. Fear of falling, fear of letting go of the idols that hinder us from loving Him…
I had to face a few of my own fears on that climb. I’ve never been a huge fan of heights… most of my nightmares end in falling off the top of some skyscraper and waking up seconds before I crumple on the concrete. But in climbing that mountain, we had to walk across an edge with a death fall on both sides. And though I had a few moments of panic, my mind was so set on the summit that I didn’t have time to let that fear consume me.
I wonder if part of the reason we don’t work through our fears is because we’ve gotten distracted and taken our eyes off the goal. We look around at all the things that might happen if we really throw ourselves into seeking Him… we look inside and see how messed up we are… and we shake with fear and say that there is no way. But just maybe, if we looked ahead to the moment when He’ll catch us in His giant arms and we’ll be able to gaze into His eyes, we’d be able to look up now and determine that we’ll be willing to do anything to reach that moment.
So often we let the mentality around us affect the way we live. We don’t throw every inch of ourselves into the pursuit of God. We tire of really seeking His face. We stop dreaming of really seeing Him because that day seems so far away. Honestly, we don’t want to expend the effort it takes to walk with Him like Enoch did. We’re not sure if we’re ready to abandon ourselves to Him that way.
But honestly, the only goal that is worth throwing every ounce of ourselves into is to be as close to Him as possible now-- and for all eternity.
We throw ourselves into our careers— studying for years for a degree that claims we know our field… we throw ourselves into sports and athletics for a medal that will last a few years and then mean nothing… we throw ourselves into making something out of our life here, but sooner or later that too will end. But for some reason, we don’t throw ourselves into seeking God, into fighting to see the face of our Jesus. As a friend once shared with me… We know we are to dig for the Treasure, but we move one shovelful and give up because we find nothing…
It’s no new thought… maybe we have to just go back a little and remember what we were instructed.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”
There is nothing to say that we cannot walk with God now like Enoch did. And we have every reason to believe that if we fight for closeness with Him now, we will have it for all eternity. How can we be satisfied with anything less? How can stop short of doing whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to see the face of our Jesus?
The real soldier willingly fights for freedom because He loves His country. The real Christian willingly fights for a relationship with the Omnipotent because they love their Jesus. It's not all about sitting and basking in His love. It makes the enemy mad to see heart who want to live life as close as possible to Jesus and he will do whatever he can to stop them. He attacks hardest what he knows is most precious. He's not about to let Jesus have the highest place in our hearts. He will suggest a million different "glossy" things to fill His place. If we want to spend each minute in His arms and one day see Him face to face we will have to fight hard. We will have to throw every ounce of ourselves into seeking Him.
But if we really love Him, we will count it all joy. We will want to fight because we cannot bear the thought of not being with Him.
We made it to the top of that mountain. I’m still amazed. And very very sore. But it was worth it.
And when we walk down those golden streets arm in arm with our Jesus, it will be worth it. Oh so worth it. Every ache and pain will be forgotten when we can lay our head on His shoulder and simply rest.
As we clambered down that mountain it seemed clearer to me than ever. No hight is too much to climb for Him. No fight too hard. No pain too much. Whatever it takes. Whatever.
How high would you climb to fall into His embrace? How hard would you fight to see His face?
I sit here on the plane and finally have a few moments to put some of the last two weeks on “paper.” It’s hard to know where to begin. God blessed abundantly and poured Himself out like we knew He would. I praise Him for His ever present strength. He is an incredibly good God.
He was at work at UKFC again this year. It is such a joy to our hearts to see families hearing and getting excited about their potential to live closer to each other and God in a way they never have before… To see the joy and happiness in families who were once on the brink of disaster. If anything spurs us on to travel for weeks of the year, it that right there. Nothing beats seeing lives changed.
We went this year with the realization in the back of our mind that because of financial concerns this might be the last UKFC. To be honest, that was not something I wanted to think about. So many lives have been touched at that camp over the last six years. I hated to think of it closing down because of money. I knew God could supply if it was His will, and I trusted that He would do what was best.
Last year God did beautiful things in the hearts of the people and in our own at that camp. I know that when the plane carried me home I left part of my heart in that country. And through all the business of the year, part of me was always eagerly anticipating our next visit and the when we would see all the dear people who had crept into my heart. Going back this year was so rich… so beautiful. I treasured the moments. Even being down with a sinus infection for the second half of the trip couldn’t spoil the privilege I felt at being back for a little while.
And it struck me again this morning in a deeper way… Might what I felt about that country be just a little part of what my Father feels about being separated from His beloved children on earth? Could it be that He left part of His heart here, and that He will never feel whole again until we are with Him? Might everyday apart hurt Him? Could He be looking down on us with longing for the day when we will be ready for Him to come and take us home? Isn’t the separation far harder for Him than any separation we have ever experienced here?
It makes me pause for a minute. My little mind just can’t grasp the depths of a Love like that.
I wonder at how we can be satisfied here when He is not satisfied to leave us here. How can we be content to let day after day pass without making vigorous strides toward that glorious reunion? Why aren’t we doing all we can to hasten that moment?
Just to think that there is a part of our Father’s heart that won’t stop hurting until we’re together…
If the joy is anything like what I’ve felt in being reunited with so much that I love these last two weeks… it will be beyond anything I can imagine.
I want to end the pain in His heart.
I want that reunion to come soon.
I want to go home.
God worked in marvelous ways this year and provided the funds for next year’s UKFC. He works in ways that are beyond our imagining. The dates are booked for next year’s camp. There will be another year to watch God change lives… I praise Jesus. That puts a song in this heart.
And since I can’t really sum up the last two weeks fully in words… here are some pictures from the trip. After all— a picture paints a thousand words.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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Hands Open. Heart Full.