Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Loveliness Of Christ

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was a Scottish preacher who suffered much at the hands of King Charles II. By order of the King, Rutherford was confined to Aberdeen and forbidden to preach. Unable to visit his friends, Rutherford instead wrote letters to them, letters which are still in print to this day. In 1909 a collection of extracts from the letters of Samuel Rutherford was published under the title The Loveliness Of Christ. The first three extracts from that collection are printed below.

"The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.

"If your Lord call you to suffering, be not dismayed; there shall be a new allowance of the King for you when ye come to it. One of the softest pillows Christ hath is laid under his witnesses' head, though often they must set down their bare feet among thorns.

"God hath called you to Christ's side, and the wind is now in Christ's face in this land; and seeing ye are with him, ye cannot expect ... the sunny side of the brae."

Once again in our generation we find that the wind is in Christ's face. If we are by His side we cannot but have it our faces as well.

Christ did promise that his "yoke was easy and his burden was light" (Mt 11:30). That is, he would not burden us needlessly, but rather would ease our spiritual burdens.
But while Christ does not burden us, that does not mean that there will be no burdens. If we are with Christ, Satan will oppose us (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus was opposed by enemies and, at times, even by misguided friends (Mk 3:22-35). We must expect the same (Mt 10:24-25; Jn 15:20).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Observations On Returning Home

It has been some time since I have posted to this blog. I have been travelling in East and Southern Africa. This first post since returning reflects on returning home.

Ever since I made my first trip to Africa, in 1985, I have had a similar reaction upon arriving back in the United States. Part of the problem is that my first taste of America is normally in one of our high pressure cities. The first trip I reentered at New York. Since then it has often been Chicago. This last trip I noted some improvement, but there is room for plenty more.

We had a serious ticket problem at Matsapha International Airport in Swaziland, but everyone remained calm and friendly throughout. When it was all over, we were all friends.

In Johannesburg there was more difficulty. All flights were delayed by a serious thunder storm. While I would not say that I made new friends, people were calm and untroubled by the difficulty.

In Zurich things are run more efficiently than in Swaziland or South Africa, but they are run efficiently without anyone getting upset or appearing rushed. The mood in the airport is calm. One rarely feels crowded (until on the plane).
Reaching Chicago there was an instant contrast. Everyone was in a hurry. The trains, in contrast with the trains in Zurich, start with a jerk. The security officers, while more friendly than in the past, still seem troubled and on edge. The same could be said for the vendors and ticket agents.

Why mention this? What is the spiritual application?

It just seems that Christians may have a greater opportunity for pre-evangelism here than in many other places. With everyone else living so frantically, calmness of spirit will stand out. It makes a difference when Christians calmly and quietly go about their daily tasks (1 Thess 4:11-12). If we can learn to remain calm, even in the midst of difficulties, it will cause others to ask the reason for this calm hope (1 Peter 3:12-15).

Lemonade is made of lemons. Evangelistic opportunities may often be made by consciously living in contrast with the frantic pace all around us. In Africa, living calmly helps one fit in. In America, living calmly will make us stand out. And as we stand out we can help others find the peace that passes understanding.