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Posts Tagged ‘Messianic Movement’

Third time is a charm.  A real, relevant post to end the day!  Thank you for your patience. 😉  This is what I intended to post here today.

I began writing this a couple weeks ago.  As things were heating up toward another armed conflict between my country and the Middle East, with possible ramifications for Israel, I decided to hold off on publishing.  I deeply desire peace for Syria, and Israel, and all nations.  With so much war and unrest in so many places it’s hard to read the news.  While in hope of a diplomatic solution of some kind, I submit this subject:

For the Love of Israel
Tonight I am sitting in a vacant house that my husband and I own. We have spent two weeks getting it ready to put on the market, but we lived here enough years to have two children and enjoy many times sharing hospitality with good friends. It is hard to let this house go thinking of all the memories. Today I was also remembering when our Hebrew Roots congregation went out in the front yard at night to blow shofars at the new moon. Okay, so we had some weird times too. But all the crazy fun times began for us, with a love for Israel.

How I Fell in Love
I was not raised in the type of church that believed Israel still had Chosen People status because we believed we did.  I never gave the modern state of Israel much thought and could never figure out what the big deal was about everyone wanting to go to the “Holy Land.” For us a pilgrimage of worth might be the house our prophet was born in, or the very first church building used by our denomination.

One day, years after leaving the late 1800’s variety of American-inspired “Chosen People” for good, I felt a desire to read the book of Ezekiel. Then I read other Old Testament prophets, majors and minors. I became very excited at the discovery of many things I had never seen before regarding the Jewish people and promises of their restoration. I began to wonder if the modern state of Israel was the beginning of these prophecies being fulfilled. Wouldn’t you know, many other people had exactly the same speculations!

I immersed myself in the study of the history of the Jewish people, and then of the history of the modern state. I had always felt a solidarity with the Holocaust victims from childhood because we also kept the Jewish Sabbath in our church, and were taught we would suffer a similar fate for it one day. I had read more World War II books than I could count. But now I wanted to know all about them as a people, past and present.

My husband, not so much interested in Israel, but in the Torah itself as a way of life, was also being drawn to identify with Jewishness as a path of life and worship. As our testimony here shares in far too much tedious detail, we did.

We began to see the Hebrew way as given to a tribal nation thousands of years ago, as the only way. We believed God ordained this forever and for always, and that any who would be obedient to follow Him in this were also Jewish. Judaism itself does teach this. Upon conversion you are as much a part of the nation as one natural born. This is the way the Old Testament teaches, to be circumcised and joined in obedience to Yahweh as explained by Moses, is to become a Hebrew.

Many people in the movement talked of moving to Israel. I studied about kibbutz life and nothing sounded more idyllic to me. I looked into ways to immigrate, and found full conversion to Judaism, proof of ethnic lineage, or joining the IDF were the options, all of which seemed problematic. But my now “Jewish” heart, longed to be in the Land. As many Christians believe, we thought by blessing Israel, we would be blessed and also have front-row privileges to end time events and insider information on current world affairs. That’s pretty intoxicating stuff.

Meeting a Real Jewish Zionist
An Israeli man came to speak to our little tiny group. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry with much larger pockets, but he was kind to come and speak for us. The way we prepared for his arrival you would have thought the Queen of England was coming to town.  He was running a publicity campaign for the Temple Mount and the WHOLE land of Israel as described to Abraham, to be occupied by Jews. Any concession at all to give up an inch of land was condemned as evil and against the will of God. Any Israeli or American leader willing to make compromises for peace was in danger of a curse we believed, and he fueled our zealous convictions. We did not care to speak to him of his Messiah, but he did make many diplomatic patronizing remarks toward the idea of the Messiah – as he was accustomed to speaking in Christian circles. He also had amazing war stories that filled us with admiration and a sense of being on “God’s side”. Maybe the miracles were true. One thing I’ve learned about miracles – they mean God loves us. They don’t always mean we are necessarily right. He was a sweet, charismatic man and I have no reason to doubt the depth of his convictions.

Those Obstructing God’s Will
As far as Palestinians were concerned, we had our talking points. We saw them as one big mob of hate-filled terrorists, not people. Not an ounce of concern or compassion for them found a place in our hearts, nor did we ever hear any of them speak about their situation. They didn’t matter to us. They didn’t belong there, and the sooner they were dealt with the better, although most of us had the realization that we would have to wait for the 2nd coming to see this problem solved. Seriously. I wonder what Jesus we were expecting?

Now, several years later with a new heart, open ears and eyes, I feel compelled to address this issue which is so closely linked not just to the Hebrew Roots Movement, but much of evangelical Christianity as well. I have questioned myself hundreds of times, “Why I should write these things?” They are hard. But it comes down to love. Love for Israel. All of it.

Honesty is Loving
Before I begin to share the hard things, there are several guaranteed reactions to anyone who would dare to look at this situation from any alternate angles. I know, because I used to have the same violent knee jerks so that I nearly bruised my own chin. Calmly place both feet on the floor, and hear my words.

*I LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE no matter where they live.
*I don’t wish to see Israel wiped off the map.
*I am deeply moved by the fear they live in and am well aware of the threats surrounding them daily, and the great suffering they have experienced past and present.
* I could care less about the accusations of conspiracies and evil empires, because I have to include my own country in that discussion. This isn’t about blame.

Now that we have that clearly stated, I desire to speak with honesty. If at any point you feel your feet rising from the floor, please refer again to the list above.

Christians and Israel
I speak now to those who call themselves by the term Christian. This would imply that you believe not only IN Jesus, but that you believe Him. I have been amazed at how easy I have in the past skimmed over very clear, direct teaching as “does not apply” to me. As He has gradually worked on my heart, I am constantly shocked at things I thought were okay that are completely out of line with how He is describing His Kingdom and how it works. This is an ongoing process for all of us who seek to follow Him. This isn’t just a matter of reading words on a page and managing to integrate my thinking from hypocrisy to honesty, but deep heart changes that are incredibly painful, yet freeing at the same time.

Many Christians, especially in the United States, feel a deep affinity for Israel and Jewish people. This isn’t wrong in any way, except when it creates the situation where we only love one side, and God loves both. When we cross over from loyalty to Jesus to blind, unbending loyalty to any earthly, fallen thing, no matter how good we perceive it, we create for ourselves a conflict of interest. This can happen with countless “good” things. The Biblical term for this is idolatry.

Just as we tend to see all Palestinians as terrorists, I think Christians also want to see Jewish people in a stereotype as well. We see them through the lens of the stories of David and Moses, and enjoy the common ground that we both accept the first edition of the Holy Book.   Stereotypes generally lead us astray from seeing the diversity in a people.  Israel is extremely diverse, maybe even more so than the United States in some ways.  I saw recently that the Ultra-orthodox were in a conflict with the government over the mandatory military service.  The article stated that they had large families and lived mostly on the welfare system as they believed their duty was to study the Torah and spend their time in the yeshiva.  They were exempt from military service because they did not believe in the use of force, but rather trusted in God.  I found great irony that this is the opposite perspective of most conservative Christian Zionist, on all issues.

Putting any and all end-time prophecy interpretations aside, because I honestly don’t know or care who is right or wrong about those things – it doesn’t change the foundational Way of the Jesus we follow – and that is to love. We love Him, each other, and our enemies. This “insanity” is the only real proof we have in this hate-filled world, and in my opinion, just as powerful as any miracle working you can manage to conjure up. Maybe more so. Pretty hard to fake loving your enemy. Funny thing happened as I began to listen to these people I had written off. God filled my heart with so much love for them too, just like He gave me for the Jewish people years before. I can’t even explain this love. It’s just there.

The Bottom side of the Security Fence
Imagine for a moment that the Palestinians don’t understand God wanted the Jews to have all the land back at this point in time. You can understand the confusion. (There are those on both sides who want ALL the land, and those who want peace.) Imagine yourself in their shoes. We’d be finding some resistance fighters in our own ranks don’t you think? What’s all this I hear in the last few years about “Don’t tread on me?” Humans of any race or religion don’t take well to being pushed off their land, losing their livelihoods, having travel restricted, or living in fear that any moment you could be arrested or your house taken over for use by an army at their whim. Or shot in random gunfire. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for peace to me. For many on both sides, peace isn’t the goal. Only total victory will satisfy.  But there are some on both sides as well who believe in non-violent solutions.

The situation in Israel is complicated, dangerous, and without any clear solutions. Many in Israel do not believe that meeting any Palestinian demands will bring peace. Palestinians do not believe Israel wants peace as long as  they continue to build settlements in their territory, which creates the need for more buffer zones, and more confiscated land and difficulty with travel because of checkpoints and security fences.

I realize there is a very real threat of violence that Israel lives under daily. But their military response has been a heavy boot that is hard to imagine and is never talked about in my social circles. I truly believed in the past that any negative story at all about Israel was a lie and propaganda from the other side. The truth is, both sides have plenty of that to go around in any conflict.

Because I don’t live there, I am obviously not qualified in the least to speak of this one way or the other, but I am thankful to have found honesty and truth, from Israelis themselves. Not all Israel’s citizens are comfortable with the way things are. Many are now speaking out about the human rights abuses the IDF routinely displays toward the Palestinian people.

I admire these truth-tellers, because truth is always risky and it takes a lot of courage to speak against what everyone accepts as normal. My country is very severe to anyone who would dare speak out about the abuses of military and government, as we have seen so vividly in the last few years. Please understand I’m not on a witch hunt here. I am sickened by what has been done under the banner of my own flag as well, and what continues to happen. I have been writing about that in other places as this is not a political blog. As I heard one saying recently, “There is no flag big enough to cover the killing of innocent people”. Especially not my flag.

Breaking the Silence
I don’t remember how or where I ran across this group, but their facebook page left me feeling ill and in tears.  I have gleaned information from different sources, but this one by far has been the most inspiring.  They are a group of former IDF members who have chosen to not remain silent about what they have seen, heard, and done. They also share current news stories of related items of interest. One of the founding members, Noam Chayut, wrote a book called, The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust – A Memoir. I identified with it deeply because the author is telling his story of “waking up”. Anyone who has been through that will recognize the process of gradually seeing things as they are, and the pivotal moments when your cotton candy structures dissolve and you are left ideologically homeless in a world of ideas.

One thing I can also relate to as an American is the contradiction between the good-guy persona, in this author’s case, “the most moral army in the world”, and the reality of human rights abuses as an accepted practice. Most of these actions are not taken as a direct intervention to any threat, but rather as a way to break a people psychologically and keep them in a state of fear and submission. He details the strategy to destroy the terror infrastructure as follows:

  1. Exposure (razing – uprooting trees and flattening buildings)

  2. Targeted Prevention (extrajudicial execution)

  3. Show of Presence (humiliation, intimidation, vandalism)

  4. Neighbor Procedure (using a random unarmed bystander as a human shield in order to enter a Palestinian house)

  5. Passer-by Procedure (same thing, after “neighbor procedure” was ruled illegal by Israel’s High Court of Justice)

  6. Searches (entering homes and damaging their contents)

  7. Deterrent Fire (opening fire indiscriminately in all directions)

  8. Making them pay the price (revenge, letting off steam and collective punishment)

  9. Mapping (invading the last vestige of privacy in the refugee camps: entering every home, drawing the layout of the rooms, listing the names of the inhabitants, scanning their mobile phones, checking out family relations…)

And so “the Palestinian population is to learn that terrorism doesn’t pay.” p. 97

He begins the story with his childhood and growing up with the Holocaust deeply embedded in the psyche with the mantra, “Never forget, never forgive.” He traveled to Europe and was deeply moved by the museums and remnants of that horrific nightmare. Yearly celebrations kept it all fresh in everyone’s minds. In spite of his excelling in music, he chose to join the IDF as a combatant because of his admiration for the war heroes who had preceded his generation.

In one eventful moment as an IDF soldier, looking into the eyes of a young Palestinian girl who saw nothing redeeming in his smile toward her, an awakening happened that took years to fully acknowledge. Here is how he describes it:

“She took from me the belief that I was avenging my people’s destruction by absolute evil, that I was fighting absolute evil. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil… And ever since, I have been without my Holocaust. Ever since, everything in my life has taken on new meaning: the sense of belonging is blurred, pride has gone missing, belief has weakened, regret has grown strong, forgiveness has been born.”

Forgiveness. That is the way out isn’t it? What we refuse to forgive, we tend to repeat. As with fathers and sons, so with nations. This book is hard to read but yet hard to put down. I am sparing you the graphic details. Only that the author states from the time he went to his first post as a soldier in Gaza, to the publishing of this memoir in English, 3088 Palestinians had been killed who took no part in any combat action.

As with most truth-telling, one of the first objections raised is that the atrocities described are exceptional incidents and in no way characterize a regular pattern of behavior. While of course there are many good things to praise, the good things do not take away from the necessity to evaluate other patterns at work. As Chayut began collecting testimonies for Breaking the Silence he relates this discovery:

I gathered testimonies, and listened to others gathered by my friends. In the first months, I was stunned by the dimensions of violence and humiliation they revealed. The excuse of “rotten apples” within the “moral occupation” cart disappeared  In its stead, a whole system of organized evil was revealed….These were the stories of frightened boys who commanded checkpoints, enforced curfews, and patrolled streets and markets. These were the stories of the indifference and numbness they developed there, which swallowed up their own personalities.”

This is when the aggressor becomes the victim of his own war. So many in our military have suffered the same emotional damage and our veterans are committing suicide in record numbers. Fighting terror with terror solves nothing and hurts everyone it touches in some way.  American Christians need to come to terms with this in their own country as much as seeing the reality of it anywhere else.  Conservative Christians have historically been quick to join the war band-wagons, unless of course it is suggested by an unpopular president.  This comes from a deep-seated patriotism that preaches “God and Country.”  Not many seem to ask the question, “What does God THINK about my country right now and its actions towards our perceived enemies?”  As a Christian, these questions should be thought out in light of the words of Jesus, not our nationalism or patriotism.

But this is not about politics or who decides policies. This is about love being the higher way. I recently saw a video of an Israeli man (on TED Talks) who has taken it on himself via the internet to send love messages to the people of Iran, saying he did not want a war with them, and many others joined in. Then there came many messages back from Iran to Israel with the same desires. What if love was stronger than fear?

I will end this portion with a few videos of Israeli IDF voices from Breaking the Silence. And I strongly recommend getting Noam Chayut’s book. In the next post I will talk about the Palestinian side of the equation (another book and movie review), and what a genuine loving Christian support for the region might look like, no matter what your end-time scenario includes.

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies/database/838448

 

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Just wanted to say hello to all the Canadian readers and congratulate you for the fact that in the last seven days, you have exceeded the number of readers from the United States!  I have no idea what’s going on up there that might precipitate this honor, but so glad to have you.  

Holidays do spark more information seeking into the topics here.  Christmas and Easter can be stressful times for those in the Torah observant lifestyle, and more so for all those around them who are not.  I can remember not knowing how to deal with family who didn’t understand our convictions about obedience to God.  And now I can only imagine what we put them through.  I get a little taste of it from listening to other people’s stories.

Our last Passover Seder was 2007, if I remember correctly.  Shortly after this, we broke the news to our fellowship that we were leaving.  Those were agonizing weeks.  I wish that we could have somehow remained in community with our dear friends – but we were drastically delivered and could no longer walk down that road at all.  Our fellowship was based on a lifestyle and specific days on a calendar.  I hate that this wall of separation came between us and Jesus was not enough to hold us all together.  I take equal fault and blame no one.  

Looking back I do wish we had been able to maintain better connections – but we were in such a drastic state of change and renewal ourselves our heads were spinning.  The best counsel I can give to anyone dealing with Observant friends or family is to love them with as much love as you can.  We wanted to please God, and we started down that road with a sincere heart.  We later became polluted with blinding pride, but so many in this movement are at the core – hungry for God’s love.  Our group was named “Know Him” (in Hebrew) and we often spoke of “drawing near”.  We wanted so badly to be pleasing to God and be special to Him.  So many who do not receive a nurturing father love in their lives, believe this is how they must approach their heavenly Father as well.  We have found this pattern to be extremely consistent.  Our deliverance came shortly after a huge emotional breakthrough and working through some forgiveness issues.  Of course every story is different, but we have seen this very common pattern both while in the Movement, and in talking to others since leaving.  Love hunger drives people to many addictions and obsessions.  Religion (as opposed to Life in Faith) suffices well in this case, and attempts to fill those core bankruptcies. But there never seem to be enough books, videos, or finding that level of obedience that gives you the feeling of acceptance or having “arrived”.  We see 101 ways we fall short every day.  I struggle not to live there, bound to my unique brand of legalism in my own expectations.

We so easily become bogged down in theological arguments (and yes – that was the motivating factor in even starting this blog) that we miss the Life in the Promise.  Our hearts are so easily distracted from this and drawn away into pursuits that excite the senses yet dull the spiritual connection with our Creator.  We love a secret, hidden meanings, thinking we have re-discovered suppressed truth, and having a unique message.  People get so obsessive, even about orthodox theological positions, let alone “heretical” ones.  What is it about human opinions and knowledge that we find so much more satisfying than being with Jesus?  I still struggle with these things that want to draw me away.  

This Resurrection Season – and 8th Day – I pray to be less distracted and stressed, and to become more aware of the Life that is in me, and around me.  We have before us two choices every day to walk in – that which pertains to Life, and those things which are already dead and passing away.  Choosing Life is so much more than the right vote at the ballot box.  I find more and more it means my death.  So He can live.  

He is Risen!  May it be so in my life too.

 

 

 

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Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving!   I have so many things to be thankful for this year, more than ever.  And no material blessing can come close to watching my children learn to know and trust God, to see His Spirit working in them.

Below my 18 year old son graciously agreed to share his perspective of what the HRM environment was like for a young heart and mind.  He saw this world through a completely different lens, one without the filters of denial that protected us as adults.

As a parent, I was heartbroken to learn this is what I put my older children through, and that I could not see I was continuing the cycle of how I was raised in  a legalistic environment.  Only recently have they both begun to share with me the effect the atmosphere and teaching had on them.   This post is the fruit of a heart-to-heart talk my son and I had that went till 2:00 a.m.  The Law did its job.. exactly as it was intended to do.  But the Remedy was seldom mentioned, and if it ever was, heavily qualified with conditions, both in words and our attitudes we projected.  I grieve not only for my own kids, but the several others that we had direct influence on.  I pray God can also bring good out of this in their lives, as He has for Jesse.

I saw a marked change in Jesse when God brought him to Grace.  He was already an amazing son, with a naturally compliant, loving temperament, but he went from “good” to ALIVE.. and that was visibly evident.

Jesse’s Story

Christians today are taught to be more tolerant of different beliefs, sometimes they don’t see the harm in what appears to be a slight doctrinal difference. Yet people are living in bondage not only to sin, but to their own beliefs as well. Another thing that is often overlooked is how alternate beliefs or perspectives can affect children; how they view God, themselves, and the rest of the world. I’m sharing my testimony in hopes that someone will see the danger of the Hebrew Roots Movement.

It started when I was about nine years old. My parents were under the impression that if they did more to please God, that God would bless the family more. The basic idea was that if we kept the law of Moses, and observed all the feasts (old covenant holidays), God would be pleased with us. When we made this change, my mother told me it was just an observation, more like adopting a new culture. We were gaining a new insight into what life and religion was like back in Bible times.

Soon after, we started attending a study group (or as they say in the Hebrew Roots, ‘Congregation’) based at a facility where children with disabilities could ride horses. My friends and I would play out there for hours while our parents would sit together and study the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

A few years went by, we had been to a few different groups by that time, and eventually had started our own with friends we had made the whole time. I was a little older by this time, and I was listening to what the adults were saying. My mother still believed in Jesus, and the sacrifice he had made for our sins, and she thought I believed the same way, but it wasn’t exactly the case.

I believed Jesus died and rose again for my sins, but the obsession with the Law that everyone had gave me the impression I had to keep all 613 commandments to be saved. None of it made sense to me. How could Jesus die for me and still expect me to live a perfect life? I knew I wasn’t able to do it, and as hard as I tried to be perfect, I believed I was headed straight for Hell. I remember crying out to God on several occasions, pleading for mercy, and thinking to myself , “You don’t deserve it, He won’t listen to you”.

Not long after I turned 14, God led my parents out of the Hebrew Roots Movement, and we started going to a Baptist church. I was relieved to know at this point that I didn’t have to follow the Law of Moses to be saved, and that I just had to let Christ into my heart. But it wasn’t until I went with that Baptist church on a week long mission trip to Kansas that I actually got saved. The mission trip I went on to reach others, was really meant for me, so I could be saved. I remember sitting in the church building, my pastor giving us a sermon after dinner, and seeing the pulpit had a cross on the front. While I was listening, I started focusing on the cross. Being the 14 year old boy that I was, I started to think about how the cross looked like a sword, and how Jesus defeated sin on the cross. The image was simple, but it was powerful to me, and God changed my heart right there. I was free!

I know people go through much worse than I have, in a sense, I’m very blessed to have suffered very little, though when I look back now, I don’t so much see myself as I do another 10 year old boy, in torment, feeling unworthy of God’s presence, of His mercy. I hope that in writing this, someone will spare themselves, and their children of the bondage that is in the Hebrew Roots movement.

But until today, when Moses is being read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:15-18

(Jesse said when he wrote this out, he opened his Bible for a reference, and his bookmark was on this Scripture!  God’s exclamation point! 🙂 )

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A dear friend loaned me a book over the weekend, and inside was a pamphlet with this short but powerful work.  I have to share it and was thankful to find it online HERE

I’m not sure after this, there is anything left I need to post! 🙂

Looking to Jesus
by Theodore Monod

translated from the French by Helen Willis
“. . . looking unto Jesus . . .”
Hebrews 12:2

Only these three words,
but in these three words
is the whole secret of life.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
IN THE SCRIPTURES, to learn there what He is, what He has done, what He gives, what He desires; to find in His character our pattern, in His teachings our instruction, in His precepts our law, in His promises our support, in His person and in His work a full satisfaction provided for every need of our souls.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
CRUCIFIED, to find in His shed blood our ransom, our pardon, our peace.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
RISEN, to find in Him the righteousness which alone makes us righteous, and permits us, all unworthy as we are, to draw near with boldness, in His name, to Him who is His Father and our Father, His God and our God.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
GLORIFIED, to find in Him our Heavenly Advocate completing by His intercession the work inspired by His lovingkindness for our salvation (1John 2:1); Who even now is appearing for us before the face of God (Heb. 9:24), the kingly Priest, the spotless Victim, continually bearing the iniquity of our holy things (Ex. 28:38).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
REVEALED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, to find in constant communion with Him the cleansing of our sin-stained hearts, the illumination of our darkened spirits, the transformation of our rebel wills; enabled by Him to triumph over all attacks of the world and of the evil one, resisting their violence by Jesus our Strength, and overcoming their subtlety by Jesus our Wisdom; upheld by the sympathy of Jesus, Who was spared no temptation . . . .Who yielded to none.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHO GIVES REPENTANCE as well as forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31), because He gives us the grace to recognize, to deplore, to confess, and to forsake our transgressions.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
TO RECEIVE FROM HIM the task and the cross for each day, with the grace which is sufficient to carry the cross and to accomplish the task; the grace that enables us to be patient with His patience, active with His activity, loving with His love; never asking “What am I able for?” but rather: “What is He not able for?” and waiting for His strength which is make perfect in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
TO GO FORTH FROM OURSELVES and to forget ourselves; so that our darkness may flee away before the brightness of His face; so that our joys may be holy, and our sorrow restrained; that He may

cast us down, and that He may raise us up; that He may afflict us, and that He may comfort us; that He may despoil us, and that He may enrich us; that He may teach us to pray, and that He may answer our prayers; that while leaving us in the world, He may separate us from it, our life being hidden with Him in God, and our behavior bearing witness to Him before men.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHO, HAVING RETURNED TO THE FATHER’S HOUSE, is engaged in preparing a place there for us; so that this joyful prospect may make us live in hope, and prepare us to die in peace, when the day shall come for us to meet this last enemy, whom He has overcome for us, whom we shall overcome through Him – so that what was once the king of terrors is today the harbinger of eternal happiness.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHOSE CERTAIN RETURN, at an uncertain time, is from age to age the expectation and the hope of the faithful Church, who is encouraged in her patience, watchfulness, and joy by the thought that the Savior is at hand (Phil. 4: 4-5; 1Thes. 5:23).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
THE AUTHOR AND THE FINISHER OF OUR FAITH: that is to say, He Who is its pattern and its source, even as He is its object; and Who from the first step even to the last marches at the head of the believers; so that by Him our faith may be inspired, encouraged, sustained, and led on to its supreme consummation.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
AND AT NOTHING ELSE, as our text expresses it in one untranslatable word (aphoroontes), which at the same time directs us to fix our gaze upon Him, and to turn it away from everything else.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OURSELVES, our thoughts, our reasonings, our imaginings, our inclinations, our wishes, our plans;

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE WORLD, its customs, its example, its rules, its judgments;

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT SATAN, though he seek to terrify us by his fury, or to entice us by his flatteries. Oh! from how many useless questions we would save ourselves, from how many disturbing scruples, from how much loss of time, dangerous dallyings with evil, waste of energy, empty dreams, bitter disappointments, sorrowful struggles, and distressing falls, by looking steadily unto Jesus, and by following Him wherever He may lead us. Then we shall be too much occupied with not losing sight of the path which He marks out for us, to waste even a glance on those in which He does not think it suitable to lead us.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR CREEDS, no matter how evangelical they may be. The faith which saves, which sanctifies, and which comforts, is not giving assent to the doctrine of salvation; it is being united to the person of the Savior. “It is not enough,” said Adolphe Monod, “to know about Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have Jesus Christ.” To this one may add that no one truly knows Him, if he does not first possess Him. According to the profound saying of the beloved disciple, it is in the Life there is Light, and it is in Jesus there is Life (John 1:4).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR MEDITATIONS AND OUR PRAYERS, our pious conversations and our profitable reading, the holy meetings that we attend, nor even to our taking part in the supper of the Lord.

Let us faithfully use all these means of grace, but without confusing them with grace itself; and without turning our gaze away from Him Who alone makes them effectual, when, by their means, He reveals Himself to us.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO OUR POSITION IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, to the family to which we belong, to our baptism, to the education which we have received, to the doctrine which we profess, to the opinion which others have formed of our piety, or to the opinion which we have formed of it ourselves. Some of those who have prophesied in the Name of the Lord Jesus will one day hear Him say: “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23); but He will confess before His Father and before His angels even the most humble of those who have looked unto Him.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO OUR BRETHREN, not even to the best among them and the most beloved. In following a man we run the risk of losing our way; in following Jesus we are sure of never losing our way. Besides, in putting a man between Jesus and ourselves, it will come to pass that insensibly the man will increase and Jesus will decrease; soon we no longer know how to find Jesus when we cannot find the man, and if he fails us, all fails. On the contrary, if Jesus is kept between us and our closest friend, our attachment to the person will be at the same time less enthralling and more deep; less passionate and more tender; less necessary and more useful; an instrument of rich blessing in the hands of God when He is pleased to make use of him; and whose absence will be a further blessing, when it may please God to dispense with him, to draw us even nearer to the only Friend who can be separated from us by “neither death nor life” (Rom. 8:38-39).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT HIS ENEMIES OR AT OUR OWN. In place of

hating them and fearing them, we shall then know how to love them and to overcome them.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE OBSTACLES which meet us in our path. As soon as we stop to consider them, they amaze us, they confuse us, they overwhelm us, incapable as we are of understanding either the reason why they are permitted, or the means by which we may overcome them. The apostle began to sink as soon as he turned to look at the waves tossed by the storm; it was while he was looking at Jesus that he walked on the waters as on a rock. The more difficult our task, the more terrifying our temptation, the more essential it is that we look only at Jesus.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR TROUBLES, to count up their number, to reckon their weight, to find perhaps a certain strange satisfaction in tasting their bitterness. apart from Jesus trouble does not sanctify, it hardens or it crushes. It produces not patience, but rebellion; not sympathy, but selfishness; not hope (Rom. 5:3) but despair. It is only under the shadow of the cross that we can appreciate the true weight of our own cross, and accept it each day from His hand, to carry it with love, with gratitude, with joy; and find in it for ourselves and for others a source of blessings.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE DEAREST, THE MOST LEGITIMATE OF OUR EARTHLY JOYS, lest we be so engrossed in them that they deprive us of the sight of the very One Who gives them to us. If we are looking at Him first of all, then it is from Him we receive these good things, made a thousand times more precious because we possess them as gifts from His loving hand, which we entrust to His keeping, to enjoy them in communion with Him, and to use them for His glory.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE INSTRUMENTS, whatever they may be which He employs to form the path which He has appointed for us. Looking beyond man, beyond circumstances, beyond the thousand causes so rightly called secondary, let us ascend as far as the first cause – His will: let us ascend even to the source of this very will – His love. Then our gratitude, without being less lively towards those who do us good, will not stop at them; then in the testing day, under the most unexpected blow, the most inexplicable, the most overwhelming, we can say with the Psalmist: “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9). And in the silence of our dumb sorrow the heavenly voice will gently reply: “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE INTERESTS OF OUR CAUSE, Of OUR PARTY, OF OUR CHURCH – still less at our personal interests. The single object of our life is the glory of God; if we do not make it the supreme goal of our efforts, we must deprive ourselves of His help, for His grace is only at the service of His glory. If, on the contrary, it is His glory that we seek above all, we can always count on His grace.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE SINCERITY OF OUR INTENTIONS, AND AT THE STRENGTH OF OUR RESOLUTIONS. Alas! how often the most excellent intentions have only prepared the way for the most humiliating falls. Let us stay ourselves, not on our intentions, but on His love; not on our resolutions, but on His promise.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR STRENGTH. Our strength is good only to glorify ourselves; to glorify God one must have the strength of God.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR WEAKNESS. By lamenting our weakness have we ever become more strong? Let us look to Jesus, and His strength will communicate itself to our hearts, His praise will break forth from our lips.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR SINS, neither at the source from which they come (Matt. 15:19) nor the chastisement which they deserve. Let us look at ourselves, only to recognize how much need we have of looking to Him; and looking to Him, certainly not as if we were sinless; but on the contrary, because we are sinners, measuring the very greatness of the offense by the greatness of the sacrifice which has atoned for it, and of the grace which pardons it. “For one look that we turn on ourselves,” said an eminent servant of God (McCheyne) “let us turn ten upon Jesus.” “If it is very sure,” said Vinet, “that one will not lose sight of his wretched state by looking at Jesus Christ crucified – because this wretched state is, as it were, graven upon the cross – it is also very sure that in looking at one’s wretchedness one can lose sight of Jesus Christ; because the cross is not naturally graven upon the image of one’s wretchedness.” And he adds, “Look at yourselves, but only in the presence of the cross, only through Jesus Christ.” Looking at the sin only gives death; looking at Jesus gives life. That which healed the Israelite in the wilderness was not considering his wounds, but raising his eyes to the serpent of brass (Num. 21:9).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT – DO WE NEED TO SAY IT? – AT OUR PRETENSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Ill above all who are ill is he who believes himself in health; blind above the blind he who thinks that he sees (John 9:41). If it is dangerous to look long at our wretchedness which is, alas! too real; it is much more dangerous to rest complacently on imaginary merits.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE LAW. The law gives commands, and gives no strength to carry them out; the law always condemns, and never pardons. If we put ourselves back under the law, we take ourselves away from grace. In so far as we make our obedience the means of our salvation, we lose our peace, our joy, our strength; for we have forgotten that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4). As soon as the law has constrained us to seek in Him our only Savior, then also to Him only belongs the right to command our obedience; an obedience which includes nothing less than our whole heart, and our most secret thoughts, but which has ceased from being an iron yoke, and an insupportable burden, to become an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30). It is an obedience which He makes as delightful as it is binding, an obedience which He inspires, at the same time as He requires it, and which in very truth, is less a consequence of our salvation than it is a part of this very salvation – and, like all the rest, a free gift.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT WHAT WE ARE DOING FOR HIM. Too much occupied with our work, we can forget our Master – it is possible to have the hands full and the heart empty. When occupied with our Master, we cannot forget our work; if the heart is filled with His love, how can the hands fail to be active in His service?

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO THE APPARENT SUCCESS OF OUR EFFORTS. The apparent success is not the measure of the real success; and besides, God has not told us to succeed, but to work; it is of our work that He requires an account, and not of our success – why then concern ourselves with it? It is for us to scatter the seed, for God to gather the fruit; if not today, then it will be tomorrow; if He does not employ us to gather it, then He will employ others. Even when success is granted to us, it is always dangerous to fix our attention on it: on the one hand we are tempted to take some of the

credit of it to ourselves; on the other hand we thus accustom ourselves to abate our zeal when we cease to perceive its result, that is to say, at the very time when we should redouble our energy. To look at the success is to walk by sight; to look at Jesus, and to persevere in following Him and serving Him, inspite of all discouragements, is to walk by faith.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS which we have already received, or which we are now receiving from Him. As to yesterday’s grace, it has passed with yesterday’s work; we can no longer make use of it, we should no longer linger over it. As to today’s grace given for today’s work, it is entrusted to us, not to be looked at, but to be used. We are not to gloat over it as a treasure, counting up our riches, but to spend it immediately, and remain poor, “Looking unto Jesus.”

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE AMOUNT OF SORROW that our sins make us experience, or the amount of humiliation which they produce in us. If only we are humiliated by them enough to make us no longer complacent with ourselves; if only we are troubled by them enough to make us look to Jesus, so that He may deliver us from them, that is all that He asks from us; and it is also this look which more than anything else will make our tears spring and our pride fall. And when it is given to us as to Peter to weep bitterly (Luke 22:62), oh! then may our tear-dimmed eyes remain more than ever directed unto Jesus; for even our repentance will become a snare to us, if we think to blot out in some measure by our tears those sins which nothing can blot out, except the blood of the Lamb of God.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE BRIGHTNESS OF OUR JOY, the strength of our assurance, or the warmth of our love. Otherwise, when for a little time this love seems to have grown cold, this assurance to have

vanished, this joy to have failed us – either as the result of our own faithlessness, or for the trial of our faith – immediately, having lost our feelings, we think that we have lost our strength, and we allow ourselves to fall into an abyss of sorrow, even into cowardly idleness, or perhaps sinful complaints. Ah! rather let us remember that if the feelings with their sweetness, are absent, the faith with its strength remains with us. To be able always to be “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1Cor. 15:58) let us look steadily, not at our ever changeful hearts, but at Jesus, who is always the same.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE HEIGHTS OF HOLINESS to which we attained. If no one may believe himself a child of God so long as he still finds stains in his heart, and stumblings in his life, who could taste the joy of salvation? But this joy is not bought with a price. Holiness is the fruit, not the root of our redemption. It is the work of Jesus Christ for us which reconciles us unto God; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us which renews us in His likeness. The shortcomings of a faith which is true, but not yet fully established, and bearing but little fruit, in no way lessens the fullness of the perfect work of the Savior, nor the certainty of His unchanging promise, guaranteeing life eternal unto whomsoever trusts in Him. And so to rest in the Redeemer is the true way to obey Him; and it is only when enjoying the peace of forgiveness that the soul is strong for the conflict.
If there are any who abuse this blessed truth by giving themselves over unscrupulously to spiritual idleness, imagining that they can let the faith which they think they have take the place of the holiness which they have not, they should remember this solemn warning of the Apostle Paul: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts” (Gal. 5:24); and that of the Apostle John: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1John 2:4); and that of the Lord Jesus Himself, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 7:19).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR DEFEATS OR VICTORIES. If we look at our defeats we shall be cast down; if we look at our victories we shall be puffed up. And neither will help us to fight the good fight of faith (1Tim. 6:12). Like all our blessings, the victory, with the faith which wins it, it the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 15:57), and to Him is all the glory.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR DOUBTS. The more we look at them the larger they appear, until they can swallow up all our faith, our strength, and our joy. But if we look away from them to our Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth (John 14:6), the doubts will scatter in the light of His presence like clouds before the sun.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR FAITH. The last device of the adversary, when he cannot make us look elsewhere, is to turn our eyes from the Savior to our faith, and thus to discourage us if it is weak, to fill us with pride if it is strong: and either way to weaken us. For power does not come from the faith, but from the Savior by faith. It is not looking at our look, it is “looking unto Jesus,”

UNTO JESUS
AND IT IS FROM HIM AND IN HIM that we learn to know (not only without danger, but for the well-being of our souls) what it is good for us to know about the world and about ourselves, our sorrows and our dangers, our resources and our victories: seeing everything in its true light, because it is He Who shows them to us, and that only at the time and in the proportion in which this knowledge will produce in us the fruits of humility and wisdom, gratitude and courage, watchfulness and prayer. All that it is desirable for us to know, the Lord Jesus will teach us; all that we do not learn from Him, it is better for us not to know.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
AS LONG AS WE REMAIN ON THE EARTH – unto Jesus from moment to moment, without allowing ourselves to be distracted by memories of a past which we should leave behind us, nor by occupation with a future of which we know nothing

UNTO JESUS NOW
IF WE HAVE NEVER LOOKED UNTO HIM —

UNTO JESUS AFRESH,
IF WE HAVE CEASED DOING SO —

UNTO JESUS ONLY,

UNTO JESUS STILL,

UNTO JESUS ALWAYS —
WITH A GAZE MORE AND MORE CONSTANT, more and more confident, “changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2Cor. 3:18). Thus we await the hour when He will call us to pass from earth to Heaven, and from time to eternity —
The promised hour,
the blessed hour
when at last “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1John 3:2).

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