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.
His story hits home with this heart… maybe because I see in it a faint glimmer of myself… a glimmer of all humanity.
Robert Robinson was only a small boy when he was tragically left fatherless. He was bright and headstrong and without the guidance of a father, he found himself in ever increasing trouble. His teenage years were wild and empty. The happiness he searched for always seemed to elude him. He longed for something to fill the void inside of him and secretly hoped for an opportunity to attend George Whitfield’s meetings nearby. Too ashamed to admit his desire, he rounded up his equally degraded friends and suggested that they go and make fun of the meeting. But amid the laughing and joking of his peers, Robert’s heart was deeply touched by what he heard. For three years those truths replayed in his mind to haunt him. Love was seeking him and would not give up until He had his heart.
Finally, at 20, Robert decided he had had enough of himself and was ready to let the King of Love have his heart. Heaven rejoiced. Shortly after, he felt called to ministry and for several years was associated with the Wesleys. He was a powerful speaker and impacted many lives by his service.
But maybe the biggest thing Robert ever did was to write a simple poem to compliment one of his sermons. The poem was later set to music and became famous as the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Not only would the song change lives for centuries, but it would eventually change his own.
In his later years, Robert drifted from the God he loved. His poem had become his autobiography…
But Love was not content to leave him in himself. While on a train one day, the young woman next to him who had no clue who he was, began sharing with him the huge impact the hymn “Come Thou Fount” was having on her life. Try as he might, Robert could not make her change the subject. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he quietly responded, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who composed that him many years ago. And I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” The young woman gently quoted his own thoughts to him, “Sir, the streams of mercy are still flowing.” His heart was touched. He turned his heart back to the Love that had so tirelessly sought him and gave his heart to the only One who could truly seal it for the courts above…
Two lines of his song have been a soundtrack running through my consciousness lately…
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…
Prone to leave the God I love.”
Sometimes I think we class wandering as giving up on God completely and having a fling with the world. But what about those moments when we become consumed in our work at the expense of taking time to hear His heart? What about those mornings we just don’t feel like talking to Him, and so run off on our own? What about those times when we feel confused and hear a gentle voice saying “Come to me. Please. I just want to help you” but fight it off with the excuse that I can handle this myself? What about the times we turn to amusement and entertainment to give us joy instead of relentlessly seeking His heart? What about then? Isn’t that wandering too?
Honestly though… we don’t like to think that we might be guilty of wandering. We like to think that we are the faithful ones.That we wouldn’t dream of leaving Him. Meanwhile, an honest look at the facts proves quite otherwise.
But in avoiding the reality of the state of our own hearts, we miss the beauty of the reaction of His.
One of the most beautiful and lovable things about my Jesus is the way He loves me even when I fail Him… I don’t know how many mornings I’ve gotten up and told Him how excited I was to spend the day with Him and how I wanted to put Him first, etc, etc… and proceeded to run off into the day and be totally consumed in my tasks, only to have it dawn on me as I tumble into bed or catch a few quiet moments out in my meadow. And somehow, every time He seems to gently welcome me back with arms wide open and a little comment about how He missed me. It always melts me. I go away determined to do better. And gradually, His love and patience is changing this heart from a busy and activity centered girl, to one who knows the greatest joy is to sit at the feet of Jesus.
But so often we stop Him from transforming us because we don’t admit our own wanderings. Or if we do, we quickly shove them into the back of our mind.
I wonder if we are sometimes afraid to recognize the love and patience of our Jesus in the face of our failure because it is a heavy blow to our human pride. We like to consider ourselves deserving of love. It’s cuts at that pride to admit that on our own we are little wretches who deserve to be left alone… but are loved more deeply that we can imagine anyway.
Truth is though, that all human pride is an obstacle to really knowing His heart. We have to be willing to lay ourselves low. To recognize our failings and wanderings and look up into the eyes of deepest Love and accept that they reflect a depth of love we could never deserve.
Maybe we wander because deep down we still think we can do it on our own. But when we are willing to lay low and look up at the One who was bruised and bleeding for me-- maybe it is then that Love will transform us into hearts that wander no more.
Could it be that the very chord which binds our heart to His heart is our recognition of our frailty and His everlasting loyalty?
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me ever to adore Thee,
May I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.
O, to Grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind me closer still to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart–O, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
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?
We all have gifts we cherish. Precious family and friends, comforts and possession, dreams and plans… They give us countless moments of joy, fill up our days, and quite honestly our hearts too. We feel we have been blessed— and rightly so. This time of year often brings a fresh wave of gratitude from our hearts to the Giver…
That’s what Thanksgiving is about anyway, so we’re on the right track, yeah?
Or maybe not.
I wonder how much gratitude we would give if every gift the Giver has given was stripped away.
Sure, we may be determined that we would not curse God… we would not turn our backs…
But would we be grateful— even joyful?
Because the thing is… God is the One who is supposed to be first and foremost in our hearts. He is the One that should give us the most moments of joy and fill up our days, and our hearts.
And if we were just left with Him… we should find ourselves singing for joy that in loosing all else we can more fully embrace the greatest Gift.
But so often I find my own heart more attached to everything He has given than I am to the ultimate Gift Himself. I shrink from the thought that some of those gifts may not last forever… that seasons come and go… and so do gifts.
I look again at Job’s words— some of my favorite in all Scripture— and this time I begin to grasp a bit more what they really mean… “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
One can only say such words when Jesus is the One loved more than all else.
I remember again the story that has been burning this lesson onto my heart of late…
He was a simple preacher, dedicated to giving every ounce of himself for his Maker and the people around him. And communist Russia would test his resolve. While returning from a secret church meeting in the home of a friend, Richard is quickly taken by two police men and shoved in the back of a taxi cab. Blindfold on, he is clueless to where he is being taken, except for the nagging idea in the back of his mind. He had known this day was coming. And as soon at the blindfold is removed and he can see the dull grey concrete walls that surround him he knows he was right. He is left to wonder at the length of his sentence.
Inside his cell, Richard Wurmbrand contemplates his fate. He had given himself to ministry and served with all his strength. But in the flurry of activity, it was easy to miss the depth of experience possible. His mind drifted back to the words of a friend… “there are only two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Now he would know which he was.
Richard later wrote, “Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering— would I continue to love Him?”
Years of imprisonment followed. Richard had plenty of time to answer that questions. 14 years in fact.
Over and over he was questioned for his faith, and given every incentive imaginable to give it up. But to Richard it had become more than a faith. It was his best Friend he was being asked to turn his back on. He couldn’t do that.
Torture was the result.
And in the midst of unimaginable suffering Richard was content… even incredibly joyful. He writes, “Words alone have never been able to say what man feels in the nearness of divinity. Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if i did not give it expression.” Many times during the three years he spent in solitary confinement the guards found him dancing for joy. “I did not mind if my captors thought I was mad, for I had found a beauty in Christ that I had not known before.”
During torture he had a phrase that he would repeat over and over to keep his mind from the pain… “Jesus, dear Bridegroom of my soul, I love You.”
His captors were infuriated at his commitment to God and his fellow men, and arranged for a trial. Richard was quite ill when it took place, and when asked to speak he could only think of three words to say… “I love God.”
After eight years of appalling treatment and suffering Richard was set free… but he couldn’t rest while he thought of the many prisoners who sat in darkness without hope of the Savior he loved. He began to tell God that he was willing to go back to jail if that was His will. And after a few short months he was arrested and taken.
For six more years Richard faced horrible suffering for the God he loved so much. While the men around him crumbled and lost their faith in socialism and other political positions, he stood firm. All the tactics, torture, offers, and physiological methods the communists could employ could not induce him to leave the God he loved so much… the very God who had allowed him to be separated from his wife and son for fourteen years… the God who allowed him to live years without seeing the light of the sun, or eat a square meal, or sleep in a comfortable bed… the God who allowed his dreams to be dashed, and all his possessions to be taken. The God who knew that the real source of happiness is not found in material gifts, but in the incredible gift we have of cherishing Him as our best Friend.
Richard’s words sink into me… “I knew now that I was not play-acting. I believed.”
And I wonder how we have allowed God to become anything less than our all... How we’ve become so consumed with all He gives that we miss Him.
Because so often we are like customers coming to Him and expecting Him to give us what we want.
How often do we come to Him purely for the joy of being in His presence? Just because we love Him?
The words of one of my favorite songs have been engraving themselves on my heart of late…
...What if right at midnight Jesus softly struck a match
Could that change everything, the light one flame could bring?
The deepest dark surrenders when One candle flickers brights
The same flame that in daytime would be lost in worlds of light
The night is not the enemy, for darkness tells this truth
Only One light lasts forever, only One light is truth.
God, if you have to make our world dark so that we can discern the Only One who lasts forever… do it. Our treasures are all yours. We want the true Treasure. We’re willing to face losses, prison walls, loneliness, the loss of all things save You so that the continual motto of our heart will be…
Jesus, dear Bridegroom of our souls, we love You…
...We love God.
This thanksgiving the deepest gratitude of my heart is for You. You are all. You are enough.
High King of heaven… my treasure Thou art.
*Photo credit-- Yours truly :)
It seems like just yesterday that I gazed out my car window watching landscape speed by... moments ticking down until the first Family Retreat of the year would begin. My expectations were high, and so was my realization of my dependance on the only One who would give me grace for another season.
And almost before I knew it, I found myself on a plane headed home from the last FR of the year, amazed at all that God had done in the hearts of others and in my own.
It's been a year of blessings too numerous to count. And as my mind drifts back over all the avenues He has led me down in the process, I am filled with gratefulness for a God who is far more incredible than I could ever deserve.
Sometimes in the moment it's hard to see the gift that I have to be a servant... to travel, share, sing, pray, serve, listen, and love. But retrospect always makes that privilege more distinct, and my heart swells with thanksgiving.
I have a hundred special memories and beautiful faces etched on my heart...
The last six months have left me with a deeper realization of the pain in a hurting world... and yet, beyond that, I see even more clearly the power and beauty of hearts that will love the world the way He did.
After all... there is nothing the world craves more than love.
Addictions... crazy busy lives... obsession with fashion...
So often it is a cry for someone to notice, to care, to love.
And sure, we can tell them that Jesus is enough-- and He is--but aren't we to be His hands and feet? Aren't we to be the ones who demonstrate His love to the world?
How can they ever understand a Jesus that loves them so much He would give His life for them until they see our hearts beating with a love for them that is so great that we give our lives for them?
It's not an easy path-- to love the world like that. All of a sudden my neighbor's pain is not just his, but mine too. The griefs, losses, and joys of those we love become our own.
But when did He ever promise an easy path?
Not easy... just rich and full, and more abundant than our highest expectations.
And isn't that better than an easy life anyway?
Jesus, give me a heart like Yours. Fill it with love for a hurting world. And when I have no more to give, break me, and make me sustenance for a dying world. I just want to love like You...
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.