Sunday, June 11, 2017

Get It Right

“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Hebrews 4:2)

         Water, as you know, is made up of two parts of hydrogen with one part of oxygen (H2O). But the fact remains, neither one by itself will ever quench your thirst. It takes the right combination of the two to get the desired result. This is what the writer of Hebrews is saying. As powerful as the Word of God is (v. 12), and as effective as faith in God may be (11:6), neither one will get the result you’re looking for – “profit [them]” -- without the other.

         The eternal Word of God is the fountainhead of all truth, and although it is infinitely inexhaustible, it is still possible to read and study it long and well enough to acquire a working knowledge of its principles and precepts; but unless, and until, faith is added into the mix, it will never truly come alive to us. On the other hand, the strongest faith is no more than blustery whistling in the dark if it’s not based on sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and eternal precepts (Psl. 119:100). Some folks can “quote it (the Bible) by the mile, but can’t live it by the inch,” as they say; while others have enough faith to step out on nothing. But that’s the problem: they step out on nothing, literally!

         As one gospel song says, “You can’t stand on promises if you don’t know what they are.” But all the Bible knowledge in the world won’t save a soul or get one prayer answered if it fails to lay hold on the Truth, by faith. The Christian life is not a method; it’s a mixture, as the verse says, that requires two ingredients: the Word of God and Faith. Leave one ingredient out, and just like the formula for water, you’ll spend your whole life thirsty.

To get the right result you have to use the right formula.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Yes, That One, Too!

 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
         I have often pondered and even written an article on this verse. I don’t mind telling you the article was a blessing to me; and if they’re to be believed, it was a blessing to other people, as well. But today, it said something to me it had not said before…for good reason, no doubt. The article I wrote was (it seemed to me) an exhortation from God that this day on which I was about to embark would be one of rejoicing depending on my will, not chance; and I could choose to be glad all day.  (“…we will rejoice and be glad in it.”)

         But of all the days, past and especially present, I needed to realize that this verse is not only referring to today but also to one in the future. One that might not bring words like “rejoice” and “glad” to mind readily. But as surely as the Lord made this day for me, did He not make the last one for me, as well?

         We only have to read Genesis, chapters one and two to know who the great “Day-Maker” is. He made my first day, and He’ll make my last one. O, and when I begin to ponder this great truth, words like “rejoice” and “glad” do indeed come to mind! And I begin to sing that happy little chorus:

This is the day, this is the day which the Lord hath made, which the LORD hath made;
We will rejoice, we will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it.
This is the day which the LORD hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it;
This is the day; this is the day which the LORD hath made.

         I choose to sing it today; and, by God’s grace, I will sing it on that last day. Yes, that one, too!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's Closer Than You Think

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:14

         “Stay away from the place of temptation.” Certainly a good rule to follow through life. The only problem is, according to James, the place of temptation is too close to home to avoid altogether. In fact, he says, we carry it around with us everywhere we go. Lust is the chief enticer, and we all have our own in-house brand. James goes on to say later in his book that it leaches out of the very members of our body (4:1), doing battle with any inclinations for good we may possess.

         Obviously, lust includes, but does not merely encompass, sexual intemperance. Such verses as Exodus 15:9, Psalm 78:18, Romans 7:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:6 indicate that anything outside the boundary of God’s Word, in general, and His will, in particular, are potential lust items, where you and I are concerned. In fact, according to Galatians 5:17, as children of God indwelt by the Spirit of God, we routinely experience a virtual war of lust between the Spirit and the flesh.

         Let’s face it: some temptations can be avoided, but others will find willing reception within us, in much the same way a radio receiver picks up sound waves. Therefore, rules, like blinders, are not sufficient. We will need to regularly change the channel, as it were, inside. We do this, says Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:5, by “[c]asting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” We will always be confronted with evil. It cannot be overlooked; but it can be overcome (Romans 12:21). Sin is not the result of outward attraction, but inward appetite. 

Lust is the traitor on the inside, in league with the Enemy on the outside.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

All the Way Home

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus…” Acts 20:24   

         “I often think how sad we shall be at the end, if we have failed in joy.” I have quoted these words of Amy Carmichael many times. I’m so glad I learned early in my Christian life how important joy is, and best of all, how accessible it is. Jesus told His disciples in John fifteen that one of the main reasons He spent time teaching them was so that His (Jesus’s) joy might “remain” in them (v. 11); and manifest itself continually as their own.

         I’ve made a personal study of joy for many years now, knowing God meant for me to have it. In fact, it’s been the very source of my spiritual strength (Neh. 8:10). Paul told the elders of Ephesus at his leave-taking from them (chap. 20) that now, as he faced what would, in all probability, be his final glimpse of them on this earth that his great desire was to “finish [his] course with joy.” When I re-read this recently, my prayer to God was, “That’s what I want too, Lord. We’ve walked together in joy for over sixty years now; I don’t want to “fail in joy” now at the end.”

Paul spoke one other time abut finishing his “course.” This time to his young Timothy (2 Tim. 4:6 & 7). “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” And my reference verse at the top tells us just how to finish our course with joy: Don’t hang onto life. And have you noticed, as I have, the older we get, the less this world seems worth hanging onto? Good-byes may be hard here; but Hello’s are so sweet there. And, O, there are far more of the latter than the former! In fact, dear ones, as we used to sing when I was a young girl, “We’ll never say ‘Good-bye’” in Heaven; we’ll never say ‘Good-bye.’” For in that land of joy and song, we’ll never say, ‘Good-bye.’” By God’s grace, there’ll be joy all the way Home…for me and for you!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On Being a Smooth Stone

"And he [David] took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine."  (1 Samuel 17:40)

Why did young David choose smooth stones for his sling? From minimal research I found out that smooth stones sail through the air faster and straighter than rough, jagged ones, which tend to curve unpredictably. How do rough stones become smooth ones? Geologically speaking, this happens through a process called "tumbling," which is "usually accomplished by transportation of the stone by water and contact with other rocks." Of course, Job knew this, thousands of years earlier (Job 14:19a).

If I might, I'd like to take the liberty of drawing an analogy here. If God wanted, as David did, to defeat His enemy using you and me "as lively stones" (1 Pet. 2:5), would He want us to be smooth or jagged, do you think? If the former, then that will require two things: water (Eph. 5:26), and "contact with other rocks." And not necessarily the gentle tapping kind, either. In fact, I would imagine the rougher the encounter, the quicker the smoothing process.

Maybe you're like me. There are people, even other believers, who just "rub you the wrong way?" As someone has pointed out, only hard things can wear out hard things. Maybe we should look at these people in a whole different way. Instead of seeing them as irritating nuisances sent by Satan to sabotage our Christian life, maybe we should consider them as possible refining tools God is using to make us more proficient instruments of battle in the good fight of faith, helping us to fly farther, faster, and more accurately.

To quote John the Baptist’s first sermon, “…the rough ways shall be made smooth” (Luke 3:4); and my prayer is that the Lord will make my own rough edges smooth. It may be painful, but by His grace, I want to be a "smooth stone" in the hand of God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Words of Comfort

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

I don’t think I have ever heard this verse commented on unless some eschatological topic was being considered. This is understandable, I suppose, since the return of Jesus Christ to this earth is taught here; though not with all the detail that is sometimes ascribed to it, I may add. Actually, the question that prompted these words by Paul was whether or not we will ever see our departed loved ones again (v.13). And his answer was, “Yes, indeed.” Whatever may go on between now and then, of this we can be sure.

What words in this passage (vv.13-18) bring you the most comfort? I can tell you the ones I want you to whisper in my ear when sickness, tragedy, heartache, or separation swirls around my head. They are these: “…and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Don’t show me charts and timetables when my heart is breaking. Remind me that the only appointment I’m sure of keeping is my rendezvous with Him. Impress me, if you will, with your predictions and your exegesis of obscure texts; but when I’m facing death, simply read to me the familiar Twenty-Third Psalm, and let David assure me again that one day, he and I shall “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

“So shall we ever be with the Lord” For my money, there are no more comforting words than these. For as the songwriter has said,

“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”

Monday, April 3, 2017

How Then Shall We Go? Finding the Path Ahead

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Romans 12:2

         It is possible to determine God’s good, perfect and acceptable will. It involves the mind and is learned, not hit upon. Paul calls it having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), which is why he told the Corinthian believers that he never stopped praying that they’d be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9). How do we find the way to go? Listen to the answer from God: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go…” (Psl. 32:8a).

         But not only do I have the authority of the Scriptures to prove this; I know it by experience. Any direction from God that has come to me in what seemed at the time to be “in a flash,” I realized later was the result of (in my case) sixty-five years of instruction by the Spirit of God through Word of God. For the most part, I have, as Henry Jowett said, to keep my soul “porous toward the Divine, ” so that now I am more able to immediately eliminate what God has explicitly forbidden and allow the Holy Spirit to bring back to my mind those things He has taught me about the character of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the instruction by the human authors of the Word of God under the direct inspiration of God.

         The wise men found the way to go, the path ahead to the newborn King, by travelling at night. Otherwise they would not have been able to see the star that stood over where He lay. This may be true for us, as well. I have learned through this journey that it’s much easier to see the lights of home in the dark. It shines brighter than ever. In the meantime, by God’s grace, I intend to marinate in the presence of God through His Word and prevailing prayer. And keep looking up.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.