Yield the Torch

One of my favorite hymns is “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go.”  There’s a line in it that says, “Oh Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee.  My heart restores its borrowed ray, that in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.”

I tend to have this problem where I grab my “torch” and run with it, and think I’ve got it down.  Then I trip over something.  Or it starts raining.  Or I’m just tired.  Or (and this is what happens to me rather frequently), I run smack into one of God’s detour signs, drawing me away from my master plan.

It’s not as if God hadn’t warned me.  “In his heart a man plans his course,” Proverbs 16:9 says, “but the Lord determines his steps.”  The Lord determines our steps- we don’t have to.  And as I wrote last week, His plan is better than ours, and even for our good!

We need to learn to “yield the torch.”  Sometimes we pass it over to God, and sometimes He has to pry it from our clinging fingers.  But when we give up our small flame, and instead radiate Christ’s light, we’re so, so much brighter, fairer, and well-directed than we would have been with our flickering light.

Some things to think about:

~ What is your “torch?”

~ What are the differences between our light and Christ’s?

~ Why is it so hard to yield the torch?

Sorry today’s post is a bit short- but I really encourage you to listen to (or sing!) the entirety of “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” and break down the lyrics.  The basic premise of the song is that, basically, life gets you down- midterms are hard, relationships are struggling, and you find even yourself frustrating sometimes- but God’s love, joy, light, and most of all, the hope of the cross, are there to carry you through.

Let me know what you got from the song, or what your favorite part is!

And feel free to post or email your answers or responses to the things to think about- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Love of God

One of my most favorite hymns is “The Love of God,” by Frederick W. Faber.  My favorite verse is the final verse (and chorus), which says

“Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,

were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade,

to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure, the saints’ and angels’ song.”

When I was going through a period in my life where it seemed like God was taking away a lot of things I loved, and I was hurting a lot, a sentence popped into my head:  “God loves me more than I love anything.”

God loves me more than I love my favorite place in the world, or my friends, or my “dream school,” or my plans… or anything.

Here’s my basic train of thought:

1.) God loves us.  (John 3:16)

2.)  Because of this, considering we believe that He did indeed send His Son to die for us because He loves us, we love God. (1 John 4:19)

3.)  We know that in all things, God is working for the good of those who love Him… us!  (Romans 8:28)

So when He alters a plan that I had thought was good- a plan that I loved- He knows what He’s doing, and I can be assured that it is for my good and His glory.

This promise isn’t always immediately comforting.  We still hurt.   We still doubt.  We still try to pick up the pieces.  We still don’t understand.  But it’s right after Paul tells us that God is working for our good that he launches into what I like to think of as a pep talk.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?!”  he cheers as we stand, downcast, looking at the shreds of what we thought was a good plan.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”  All things, Paul?  All things?  Because I loved this thing, and He took it away. But then, there are some things that you simply cannot “graciously” give when you are an all-knowing perfect being.

Something that looks good to us might also be something that God took a look at and knew that it wasn’t part of the master plan or part of the gift, so in His perfection, knowledge, and love, He withheld it.

And then Paul jumps into the heart of it:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  But, Paul, sometimes it feels like this really isn’t for my good, because it hurts and I’m not quite sure where God’s love is fitting into this, so mayb-

“NO!”  But, I-

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

This sentence could be emphasized in so many ways.  In all of these things- in every hurt, in every joy, in everything we live through and overcome, we aren’t just participants.  We aren’t just warriors.  We aren’t just conquerors.  We are more than conquerors.  Before we let this go to our heads, we’re reminded that this is so because of Jesus loving us.

At this point, I imagine I’d still be standing there trying to figure out how something as small as me could manage to be more than a conqueror in everything.  “Through Him who loved us!”  Paul says.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

~

God’s not going anywhere.  He knows what He’s doing, and we know that He loves us.

Time: The End and The Now

Well, we’ve arrived at the last of my posts on time.  =)

The Bible says that eventually, “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I once heard a speaker reword this a bit.  He said that God is going to be glorified through your life somehow… either through your success… or your downfall.  We have an opportunity to serve and help Him in this world, but if we don’t, it’s not going to phase His ultimate plan at all- we’re all subject to it.

That being said, we, as Christians, have a goal to work towards- a “chief end-“ to glorify God, by serving, trusting, and obeying Him.  We’re pressing on “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us].”  That quote comes from one of my most favorite verses in the Bible, Philippians 3:12, which I often cite when I’m struggling and truly need that encouragement to press on.  But right now, I’m looking at the part that reminds us that we will take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.

We’ve looked at how we should be spending our time, and motivations for working to use our time wisely, but it’s also incredibly encouraging to remember what we’re working towards.  We’re not aimlessly working for a God who is just going to use us and dispose us- we are part of His family.  He loves us.  A lot.  And He took hold of us through His death and resurrection for a purpose.

It’s about the time of midterms, and general stress, and I definitely know (first hand) that it can be rough right now.  You may be wondering why you’re even taking these classes… or doing these extracurriculars… or filling out these applications… or setting aside time for a devotional.

“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  Sure, everyone told you that verse when you graduated, but it’s just as true now.

Those plans to give you hope and a future are still in action, even when you’re struggling.  We have a prize to work towards. But it’s not just any prize- it’s a prize that has already been won for us by the most perfect, loving, glorious Best Friend we could ever have. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”

Transcending Time

There is a song that was popular several years ago whose lyrics are as follows:

“I know today is taking me

Where I’m meant to be…

Life goes by; Who knows why?

I can’t wait for the world to spin, I can’t wait to be up again.  Oh, what’s it gonna take?

I can’t wait for my time to come and I’ll be shining like the sun… I can’t wait.”

I doubt that the lyricist is referring to anticipating eternity with Christ, but that’s what I think about when I hear this song.

One of the odd, yet interesting, things about time is that God is not subject to it, and because of that, I can know that today is taking me where I’m meant to be.  One image that has encouraged me immensely is the idea that when I’m struggling through one particular day, God can already see what’s going to happen as a result of that- He’s already in tomorrow, and the day after that, and after that, and after that…

For example, I was having a pretty rough day the other day.  I naturally consider life a musical, and therefore am a real-life example of those “Hold on, I’ve gotta go sing about my feelings”-type characters.  So when I’m having a bad day, I sing songs about bad days.  Interestingly enough, the two songs that I got stuck in my head were both songs that I was introduced to more than six years ago.

One song’s chorus goes, “On a day like today, all has gone wrong, and my life seems crazy- gotta hold on.  Smile on my face, ’cause I know the sun’s gonna shine my way. On a day like today, look up in the sky and know life’s so amazing and I know I will be okay. ‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine my way.”

I probably first heard and learned that song in 2001.  It’s exciting to think that God knew exactly what day and time I would “randomly” retrieve that song from my memory and let its message encourage me.  It’s this knowledge that often reassures me that I can trust Him.  It’s not as if He’s blinded by the constraints of time.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own,” He tells us in Matthew 6.  “Seek first [your heavenly Father’s] kingdom and His righteousness.”

What a lifestyle.  Don’t worry about tomorrow… the homework that’s due, the conflicts that may arise, the upcoming assignments and stresses…  push all of that back and look first for God’s example.  It requires actively seeking and pursuing God’s kingdom.

The world often encourages us to pursue what we want by either doing nothing or doing a lot and worrying way too much.  God tells us to take that energy and direct it toward seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, which provides a number of benefits.

The main two that come to mind are, first, God’s kingdom and righteousness are lasting literally forever.  Second, God’s kingdom and righteousness overflow with love and perfection, providing peace, faith and hope, and those little tastes of how things are supposed to be, and will be soon enough.

I can hardly wait to be hanging out with the entire body of Christ in heaven for eternity.  It’s really difficult (and perhaps impossible) to wrap your mind around.  But when we seek God’s kingdom, finding bits of it in the encouragement and love in fellowship, experiences in nature, growth in Christ, and other experiences, we get little tastes of it.  Those little tastes are amazing.

And if I so enjoy those little tastes, I’m can’t imagine how incredible and awesome it will be when we’re all at the marriage feast together, transcending time with God, having made it together through that bit when He really knew all that was going on, and all that we often really knew was that we needed to trust Him.

Time… and Gifts

When you think about it, we have a terribly minimal amount of time on Earth.  The Bible is constantly reminding us that we are dust, we are a breath, and this life will fade quickly.

Now, if you’re like me, you might have initially experienced a bit of panic when this truly sunk in for the first time.  In the weeks leading up to one of my recent birthdays, I was stressed.  I was sad more than I was excited, because I was thinking, “I have been here this many years now, and what have I done?  What major things have I accomplished?  How have I changed the world?” … and nothing was really coming to mind.

Thankfully, a few encouraging conversations reminded me of what these years are supposed to be about.  God might not have put me on earth to end world hunger, or find a cure for a seemingly incurable disease, or to collect thousands of dollars for the homeless as a seven-year-old, but He did put me here with certain talents and capabilities.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,” 1 Corinthians says in chapter 12.  “Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

I puzzled over the last sentence of that excerpt for some time.  “The greater gifts?”  What are those?  Surely they’re some of the awesome talents that I don’t seem to have.  But after carefully rereading the passage and its context, I think that the “greater gifts” the passage is referring to are “faith, hope, and love,” the greatest of which is love.

Right after we’re told to eagerly desire the greater gifts, the writer tells us that he will show us the “most excellent way,” and then launches into the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage about love, ending with how faith, hope and love “remain,” and love is the greatest of the three.

So what does this mean for us?  Okay… I’ll spend my time loving people.  But I’m not sure it’s quite that simple.

First, I believe we need to develop the gifts of faith, hope and love.  We can’t desire something we already have, so at some point, we have to go through a process of obtaining these greater gifts.  That takes work!  We can’t ignore Christ’s example of these gifts, and ignore opportunities to practice these talents, and expect to suddenly become trusting, hopeful, loving people.  And we’re not only called to desire the gifts- we’re called to eagerly desire them.

So while this passage doesn’t give us a breakdown of how we should be spending our days, it does give us an idea of what we should be doing during that breakdown of our day.  I’d really suggest taking a look at your daily activities and seeing how you can spend your time developing and desiring the beautiful gifts of faith, hope, and love, and then acting on them!

I really believe that God has given each of us specific talents that we can use alongside faith, hope and love.  What are you good at?  One of my good friends is good at music, so she dedicates some of her time to playing for the worship band for some of the kids’ groups at her church.  She sounds great, and she’s acting in love towards those adorable kids and communicating her faith to them!

It can be hard at first to apply this idea to every single part of your day.  How can I grow in or act out faith, love or hope when I’m struggling through my homework?  When I’m driving home?  When I’m running late?  When I’m hanging out with my friends?  When I’m eating?  When I’m watching T.V.?  When I’m getting ready for bed?

As I said before, it will take (persistent) work, but I’d say it’s definitely worth it to learn to spend your precious time radiating the King of Kings.  Isn’t that why we’re here to begin with?  =)