Friday, December 29, 2006

Pure Language

“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph.3:9)

Now that the year is coming to a close, I am once again reading in the Minor Prophets at the end of the Old Testament. (They are called that, not because they are “minor” in the importance, but only in length, compared to books like Isaiah or Jeremiah, etc.) It is easy when reading some of these enigmatic chapters to mutter under our breaths, “Come on, New Testament!” There are many times when I look up from the page and say to myself, “What in the world does that mean?” And it is only somewhat comforting to find that others, even some commentators, feel the same way. Still, there are other times when I read something I never noticed before that speaks to both my mind and heart. For example, this verse in Zephaniah.

Those two words—“pure language”—stand out to me as though in bold print. This is the only place you will find them together in the Word of God. It is commonly considered that the theme of most of these final books of the Old Testament is the restoration of the nation Israel in the last days. But there is much in them to give us insight into the mind of God. For instance, the verse tells us three practical things that are true for any time or situation. First, there is a pure language; second, it is the means of communication with God; and three, its primary purpose is universal praise and service to God, not just a means of communication and cooperation between the peoples of the earth. When everyone speaks the same language, there is a unity of sorts, but it isn’t always of God. We know this because of what we read in Genesis eleven about the Tower of Babel. (“And the whole earth was of one language…” v.1) Whatever that language was, we can be sure from God’s actions, it was not “pure,” in the way Zephaniah speaks.

Some of us would be tempted to designate English as a worthy candidate for this pure language, especially since it is quickly becoming a universal one. And if you are like me, it would be the impeccable English of the AV 1611 Bible. People have asked my husband what language he thinks we will speak in Heaven, and he usually replies that Hebrew might be a good possibility, since we have an occasion in the New Testament when God spoke audibly from Heaven in the Hebrew language (Acts 26:14). And He spoke these words to Saul of Tarsus, later to become Paul the Apostle, a man we know to have been multi-lingual.

Now that I’ve told you a little of what engaged my mind, let me tell you how God spoke to my heart. You see, the word “pure” not only means free from anything that would taint or adulterate, it also means to be innocent or morally clean. Matthew Henry, commenting on the text, said, “Converting grace refines the language.” And there are many who can personally attest to this. We read in Proverbs 15:26 that “the words of the pure are pleasant words.” Contrast this with Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” On the one hand, there is “pure language”; at the other end of the spectrum is “corrupt communication.” God does not require that you have a vast vocabulary, but He does insist that you exhibit a pure one, especially since Jesus pointed out that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt.12:34).

The best way to develop a good vocabulary is to read good literature; the best way to acquire pure language is to read pure words. And I know of only one Book where you are guaranteed of finding them, for it is the only one that rightfully claims of itself:

“Every word of God is pure..”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Boy Who Became a Dog

(an allegory)

Richard and Salle Sandlin

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh…” (1Tim.3:16)

There was once a kind, loving, and very rich Father, who owned a great plantation with acres of beautiful, green, rolling hills. This Father had an only child, a Son that He loved with all His great heart, and this same love was mirrored in the heart of His obedient Son.

There came a day when the Father and Son who were walking together, “chanced” to see a pack of wild, hungry dogs scrounging for something to ease their hunger. They were torn and bloody from fighting among themselves, and it was easy to see they suffered at the hands of a wicked master.

The Father stood for a great while watching the pitiful dogs, with His Son, all the while, watching Him. Finally the Father spoke.

“Oh, my Son, I know these creatures must be in awful misery. I do wish I could understand just how they feel; and I greatly desire to have them come to live with us. But neither is possible.” Suddenly, the Son realized that here was something He could do for the Father that He loved and wanted only to please.

“If I could somehow become a dog, Father, I could tell you all about them, and even better, I could tell them about you. They would all surely want to come and live at your house.”

The Father (who was able to do such things) looked intently into His Son’s eyes, and replied, “Son, I can give you the form of a dog, and the other dogs will think you are one of them, even though you will still be a human. But, I must warn you, although you will always be my Son, you will always look like them.” The Son realized that this would indeed be a high price to pay, and He would greatly miss being at home with His Father. But He also knew that this was the only way to fulfill the desire of His Father’s heart, and since this was His greatest desire, He would do it.

So, one day a little girl dog (hardly more than a puppy herself) gave birth to a boy puppy in a lean-to barn out under the stars. The birth was a miracle, because she had never been with a male dog, therefore, the puppy did not have a canine father. As He grew, the other dogs sensed there was something different about this dog (who, of course, was the Son), and at first, they were amazed by the things he could do and the kindness he showed to them. But later, when he began telling them that even though he looked like them, he was his Father’s Son, they became angry and jealous of him.

They followed him everywhere he went, taunting him, saying over and over, “Tell us the truth; are you a dog or a man?” And the Son would patiently tell them about his real home, and his loving Father who had sent him so that they, too, could come and live in his wonderful home forever. The only requirement was that they must admit what they were and acknowledge that he was a man and not just a dog. Some did believe and chose to follow the Son wherever he went. They were mistreated, too. Truly, the Son learned the great misery of being a dog, and His heart broke for them.

At one point, he was so overcome with pity for them that he cried, “Oh, dogs, dogs, I would take you all to my Father’s house, but you refuse!”

Finally, the dogs tired of his stories and his insistence of his true origin, and decided to kill him. This they did in a very cruel and hateful way. The dogs who had believed and followed him wondered what would happen then. But, again by a miracle, after three days, the Son who became a dog was raised by His Father, from the dead. He told the believing dogs that He must now return to His Father, and that they would come later. For since they had believed Him, and chosen to follow Him, the Father loved them now as He loved His Son. They would come to understand later that somehow His Death and Resurrection made all this possible.

And just as the Son promised, the dogs are now able to go and live at the Father’s house…as though they had always belonged there. It is even more wonderful than they imagine. Now, in great numbers, they gather to give praise and worship to the Father and Son. And, one day, when they have all reached the Father’s house, they will look at them, and think how strange it is to see the Son, still in their likeness, sitting next to His Father. And they will know that He chose to become one of them.

I wonder if those dogs truly understood how humbling it was for the Son to become a dog? and how much the Father must have loved them? Do you?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Womb of the Heart

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov.4:23)

If one wanted to think of this verse as referring to the fist-sized, blood pumping organ in our body (which it does not refer to), then we could also point to another organ from which life actually does issue—the womb. And this comparison is quite reasonable, scripturally speaking, in the light of the Gospel of John, chapter three. Here, Jesus calls the requirement for Heaven a “new birth,” which prompts Nicodemus to question, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (Jno.3:4).

The heart referred to in this verse, like so many others, however, refers to the inner workings of our being (to use a philosophical term) that makes us who we are. In the light of this, I will make this observation: As a mother, I can attest to the fact that as my own four children grew within my physical womb, love for them grew within the womb my heart; and long after their little bodies issued forth from my womb, wave upon wave of love continues to issue from my heart.

I realized recently that as I see my children go through trying times as their own children mature, I find myself concerned about how this affects them even more than what my grandchildren are going through. Don’t misunderstand; I love and pray for my eleven precious grandchildren and my dear little great-grandson, and I am as intimately involved in their lives as I am able to be. But, somehow, the spiritual and emotional umbilical cord that connected my life to the life of my children was never severed when the physical one was.

I am aware that such feelings can become debilitating to both parent and child, so I remind myself that it must always be an invisible, silken cord, with lots of “slack” for individual growth. Nevertheless, it is there; and as I found out when my own mother succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, when the mind lets go, the heart still holds on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Be Ye Thankful

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Col.3:15)

One could easily infer from this verse that peace and gratitude are inseparable. The former cannot be obtained without an ample dose of the latter. The ungrateful soul will look in vain for peace of heart…and mind. To the harried, frantic man or woman, gratitude is a syrupy sentiment that always comes with disclaimers that begin with, “But…” It is also obvious from this verse that gratitude, like love, is a choice. Be ye thankful—or not. My husband has pointed out on numerous occasions that the first step to heathendom is ingratitude. The descent into animal worship and animal behavior begins with, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful…” (Rom.1:21). On this day before we gather with family and friends to celebrate our gratefulness to God as a nation, I have two thoughts to help us examine our own “gratitude attitude.”

First, the one prerequisite for being thankful is maturity. As long as one is still looking at life through irresponsible eyes of self-gratification and childish insecurities, he or she will never be able to grasp the true blessings of life. One of our friends who is an amateur etymologist shared with us that the word “thanksgiving” comes from root words that literally mean, “gift of my thoughts.” And that is exactly what is required if we are to nurture our appreciation skills. A well-honed ability to think maturely will invariably result in a spirit of gratitude.

My other thought is the obvious result of the first. The evidence of a thankful heart is contentment. It is not the most articulate or effusive words of appreciation, but the most contented life that truly says, “I am thankful.” The Scripture says, “Be content with such things as ye have” (Heb.13:5). As we used to say, “Make do.” Make do with your husband or wife, children, possessions, health, temperament, looks—all of it. Not because they are all you have, but because they are all you want. We may say we are thankful for our husbands, but if we are constantly trying to correct or change them, our words belie our actions. We may profess that we are grateful for the children God gave us, but when we insist upon comparing them with the children of others, they feel little appreciation. And when we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to upgrade our possessions, health, or looks, our discontent has smothered any vestige of gratitude we might profess.

I could tell you today that I am thankful for the good husband God gave to me and the wonderful children, grandchildren, and great-grandson He has blessed our union with. I can say I am thankful for a cozy home, clothes in my closet, and food in the cupboards. I could bless the Lord that I was able to rise from my bed this morning and take care of my own physical needs; and I could smile and say the gray in my hair is not a sign that I am old, just well seasoned! I could say all these things—and mean them, too—but I would rather evidence them by a life characterized by true contentment.

It is good to give thanks; but it is better to be thankful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Offended in Jesus

“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:23)

If the disciples, and obviously, John the Baptist (vv.19-23), were offended in one way or another by our Lord, who are we to say that we are immune from such unreasonableness? You and I are abundantly capable of offending one another, as the Scripture teaches, and’ were it not for the Blood of Christ, we would present a constant affront to God. But the fact that the One who was perfect in all things could ever be offensive to His imperfect creation, is further proof of our own perverseness. The disciples (and others) were not always offended, of course, but enough to give us some examples of where you and I are in danger of getting our own feelings hurt.

It is easy to become offended when we are treated unjustly by others. “I’m not offended by God,” you may argue, “I’m offended by the people.” Yet, can you truthfully say, the fact that God could have prevented their actions never gnaws beneath the surface? After asserting that He was being “hated without a cause” in John 15:25, and predicting the same for them, in chapter sixteen, Jesus told His disciples, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (16:1). There is something about unfair treatment that can make even the “godliest” among us level our resentment past the perpetrator to the “Permission-giver.” But, as Jesus pointed out, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matt.10:24). Perhaps if we could see unfair treatment and persecution as a mark of identification with Christ, rather than a sign of alienation by God, we would be less inclined to be offended.

Some people, like the Pharisees in Mark six, are offended when someone, whom they consider to have lesser credentials than they is found to be superior in wisdom and/or conduct. In the case of Jesus, they saw someone whose education was not as exclusive as their own, yet whose wisdom was astonishing (Mark 6:2). And, for all their religious paraphernalia, they were unable to match the “mighty works…wrought by his hand.” For this reason, Mark says, “they were offended at him” (v.3). I wonder if we are ever offended when God chooses to astonish people by using unlikely, even unqualified, individuals. The truth is, when all is said and done, we are all clay; and with God availability trumps ability every time.

And speaking of the Pharisees, there was another occasion when something Jesus said rubbed them the wrong way. In Matthew fifteen, He accused them of having the kind of religion that looked good on the outside, but only because they had set their own standards. Blind tradition had taken the place of Biblical text; and as our older son, Andrew, says, “Anytime you are bound to tradition, you’ve uncut the Bible.” Midway in His discourse, the disciples, fearful of their own good standing, no doubt, tried to caution Him by saying, “In case you haven’t noticed, you’ve offended the Pharisees” (v.12). He knew, all right, but the problem was not His; it was theirs.

The last example I want to address is the one found in John six, where Jesus blew the disciples away in the discourse that began, “I am the bread of life” (v.48). All the talk about eating His flesh and drinking His blood was more than they could wrap their minds around. As Jesus pointed out, it was because they could not see past the physical to the spiritual (v.63). Some people try to spiritualize Biblical commands that would put a cramp in their theology or their lifestyle; but there are others who are so busy interpreting everything literally that they can never pick up on eternal principles. No doubt, this is where the ability to “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15)) is best exemplified. The point is, these men were so frustrated that they could not figure out God, they became offended. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?” (v.61) I’ve seen sour Christians, who were always laboring under the false belief that they had been given the commission to settle the argument, once and for all, on predestination and free will, or some other doctrine that has been argued since…since there were two Christians to argue!

We should probably remind ourselves that when we are offended with God, we display it by blaming someone else. Rarely do we hear anyone say, “I was offended by God today.” But when we take offense at unfair treatment or overlooked recognition, or if we bristle when our hypocrisy is pointed out, or our Bible interpretation questioned, we should assume we are really blaming God. At least that is how it would seem to me. And, if that be the case, we are not the ones Jesus was speaking of when He said, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Sunday, November 12, 2006


“Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” (2 Pet.1:15)

Many years ago, when I used to sing for weddings, one song that was often requested was the old song, “Always.” The last lines of the chorus say, “Things may not be fair…always/ That’s when I’ll be there…always/ Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year…but always.” In a time when marriage has become as disposable as plastic utensils, this kind of sentiment may sound irrelevant, but this is not a commentary on the institution of marriage but the inconsistency of some of its participants. God takes marriage vows just a seriously as He always did, and holds us just as accountable.

There are things in the Bible that are “sometimes” things. For instance, sometimes men were directed by God to do one thing and at another time to do something completely different. Isaiah was commanded to tell King Hezekiah he was going to die, then turn right around and tell him he was going to live (2 Kings 20:1-5). The wise man says in Ecclesiastes three that there is a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck it up; a time to weep and a time to laugh. These, and many others, are not “always” things, but “sometimes” things.

You probably have a good idea what the word means, but just in case you are inclined to underestimate it, let me tell you how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it: “At every time, on all occasions, at all times; through all time, without any interruption, continually, perpetually; in any and every circumstance, whatever happens, whatever one may do or say, in any event, anyhow.” Get the picture? Now, shall I remind us of some of the always things God has said should characterize we who are His children?

We should always:

 pray (Luke 18:1)

 abound in the work of the Lord (1Cor.15:58a)

 triumph in Christ (2Cor.2:14)

 bear in our bodies the death of Christ (2Cor.4:10

 be zealous about good things (Gal.4:18)

 give thanks (Eph.5:20a)

 have the peace of God (2Thess.3:16)

 be ready to give an answer for the reason of your hope (1Pet.3:16)

If consistency is “the virtue of fools,” as the old saying goes, you can’t prove it from these verses. As I have pointed out, however, there are times when we cannot (nor should we try to) standardize our lives. The Christian life should be sprinkled with flashes of spontaneity that reflect the moment by moment leading of the Holy Spirit. But these are best seen against the backdrop of a life of steady obedience. As Christians, we all fail, of course, but there should be some Biblical attributes in our lives—especially those mentioned in the cited verses—that make those who live and work among us say, “She always….”

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ashamed of the Wrong Things

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner…” (2 Tim. 1:8)

We are probably guiltier of doing the right thing at the wrong time than we are of doing the right thing in the wrong way. Or, at least, just as guilty. I wrote recently about the mistake of being ashamed of victory. In my reading today in 2 Timothy, I was struck by how way off the mark we can be when it comes to being ashamed of other things, as well. There are other places I could cite besides those in this book, but there was enough here to make me take a good, hard look at myself.

In this second letter to his protégé, Timothy, Paul cautions him not to be ashamed of the testimony of Christ (v.8), stating in verse twelve that he had placed all hope for the safety of his own eternal soul in Jesus Christ. And he was willing to suffer anything for His testimony, even the stigma of being called a jailbird. Jesus Christ is no one to be ashamed of. No one ever accused Him of any wrongdoing and made it stick. I find that some people invoke the name of God lavishly in their conversation; but are, on the other hand, sparing in their mention of the manifestation of God on this earth—the Man, Christ Jesus. God, a word that can be very “generic” in our pluralistic society, can be bandied about with little fear of ostracism; but exalting Jesus Christ, the name to which every knee will bow (Philip.2:10), and the only name whereby one can be saved (Acts 4:10-12), can sometimes get you labeled as being exclusive and narrow minded. But it’s little enough price to pay, as far as I’m concerned. Paul was put in jail for the testimony of Jesus Christ, while the Apostle John was left to die on a lonely island (Rev.1:9); and neither one of them regretted it.

But there is something else in the first two chapters that we should not be ashamed of either; but we often are. Paul’s other wish for the young preacher was that he not be ashamed of him—Paul—because he was a prisoner of Rome. In fact, he goes on to mention that the one attribute of their mutual friend, Onesiphorus, that stood out to him, was that he was never ashamed of the Apostle’s “chain” (v.16). This observation challenges me to ask myself, “Am I ashamed of my brothers or sisters in the Lord who are sometimes shunned (if not imprisoned), not because they are guilty of gross sin, but because they are “different.” For one reason or another, they see nonessentials differently than others of us do. They may be too controversial, or (as Paul was accused of being) too confrontational. They are clapping on the second and fourth beats, rather than the traditional first and third. We do not have to agree with, or even understand, all of God’s children; but we do have to love them. And if Jesus Christ is not ashamed of you and me (Heb.2:11), we have no reason to be ashamed of them.

Did Paul happen to mention anything to Timothy that we should be ashamed of? As a matter of fact, he did. In chapter two and verse fifteen, he said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” If we are not reading and studying the Bible—working at it—for the approval of God, and not other people, we should hang our heads in shame. We are imperfect people, so we need a perfect Book to show us the way. I can’t count on you, and you can’t count on me, for the answers. And if we will not take the time to do it, it’s a “dirty, rotten shame!”

Shame is too important to waste on the wrong things. It can lead us to repentance toward God, or it can make us cowards. It can spur us on to excellence in our Christian lives, or it can turn us into ineffective Pharisees. Without a doubt, it can be one of the things that determines whether or not we will be “ashamed before him at his coming” (1Jno.2:28).

Friday, October 27, 2006


“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb.12:2a)

Some of the exercises we do in my physical fitness class at school are designed to improve our sense of balance. We are often reminded that balance has nothing to do with age and can be improved no matter how old you are. I have learned that the key to standing continuously with one foot on the knee of the opposite leg, while holding both hands clasped above your head is to remain focused on one place in the room or landscape. If our eyes begin moving from side to side, so will our bodies! In order to keep our balance, we must remain focused.

This same physical principle holds true for our spiritual lives as well. There is a reason why God says in Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth…” Not only does it save you from hell; it also is the way to keep from falling over in this world of spiritual pitfalls and morally uneven terrain. There is a constant tugging on all sides to try to tip us one way or another. Our own personal world, like the earth itself, must revolve around the Son if we are ever to experience equilibrium—equipoise, if you will—in this life. The verse in Hebrews tells us why.

Our faith begins and ends with Him. Everything else is just incidental. Even spiritual things. Our church and its doctrines, our ministry and the good things we do for others, not to mention prayer and Bible reading, are all good things; but none of them are an end in themselves. Jesus Christ, the “finisher of our faith,” (I say this reverently) is where the buck stops. His is the face on which we must focus if we want to keep our spiritual balance, and when we set goals for ourselves—and we should—they should be in a direct line with that vision. The answer to any question we have in life will only be right if He is factored into the equation.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “A body is said to be in stable equilibrium when it returns to its original position after being disturbed,” and a Christian’s Spiritual balance can be gauged by how long it takes him or her to return their gaze to Jesus Christ. He is the center of our gravity, and the only One who can keep us from losing our balance (Jude 24a).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Manner of Spirit

“But he [Jesus] rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” (Luke 9:55)

In today’s vernacular, Jesus would be saying, “You don’t know where you’re coming from.” Because a city of Samaritans (racial outcasts to the Jews) chose not to have Jesus stop by their town on His way to Jerusalem, two of His disciples, brothers James and John, tried to talk Jesus into letting them “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them,” just like Elijah did in the first chapter of 2 Kings. But their zeal said less about their love for Jesus than it did about their own natural inclinations. A spirit of anger in a man or a woman, which is both hasty and harbored, is the sign of a fool, says the wise man in Ecclesiastes (7:9). And, as Jesus tells us, it is possible to have a wrong spirit and be unaware of it, or even to look upon it as a sign of Spirituality.

What kind of “spirit” do I manifest? What kind do you? Please understand I am not speaking of the Holy Spirit and His fruit in our lives. I am drawing our attention to the atmosphere and attitudes that provide a backdrop for the things we do and the way we do them. For instance, there are some people who are more easily influenced by error than they are by truth. (1Jno.4:6). In fact, there is a spirit about them that is always skeptical of Biblical principles, while at the same time gullible when it comes to every hair brained intellectual theory that comes down the pike. Sometimes what may look like honest inquiry is really dishonest skepticism. This is not to say that anyone who questions a particular doctrine has an ulterior motive; but when the Word of God is plain, and the vast majority of good men down through Church history have acknowledged the veracity of certain truths, failure to see these truths is to manifest not only willful ignorance, but a spirit of error.

Then, there is the man or woman who might mistake a “spirit of fear” (1Tim.1:7) for healthy dependence upon God, or even the equivalent of a “spirit of meekness” (Gal.6:1), both of which are assets in the Christian life. But when one sees that the spirit of fear is contrasted to “power, love, and a sound mind,” it becomes evident that failing to see the difference between fear and meekness is to run the risk of being a spiritual cripple. Meekness understands it is not above falling, but is courageous enough to confront sin and patient enough to affect restoration. Fear, on the other hand, has neither the power nor love to deal with people, because the mind is preoccupied with itself.

Finally, a “spirit of bondage” (Rom.8:15) is no indication that one is a mature, obedient Christian. Those who live for God because they fear His wrath, or that He will disown them, only prove that they have an unhealthy (and unbiblical) idea of what it means to be a child of God. God wanted us to know just how secure we are as His children, so He told us that we are not only His by birth (“Abba” [Papa]), we are His by law—adoption (“Father”). Some people, who are unaware of the spirit of bondage they have come to live with, serve God…or else; others of us serve God…because there is nothing else. He is not only my Father, He is our life. To deny Him would be to deny myself; and for Him to deny me, He would have to deny Himself. Even if the former was possible, the latter could never be. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2Tim.2:13).

You who are familiar with the Word of God are aware that I could go on. But my purpose has been to show that, like James and John, we can have a wrong spirit that either masquerades as a right one or at least appear to be an understandable one. In the case of the two disciples, they were blessed to have the clear rebuke of God the Son to point out their misplaced zeal. But you and I are equally blessed, in that we possess, as believers, God the Holy Spirit to do the same within us. It all depends on which spirit we choose to obey. We may not know “what manner of spirit [we] are of,” but we can know. The real question is, once we know, what will we do about it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Lowliness of Jesus

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech.9:9)

This Old Testament prophecy to the nation Israel about the coming King was fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on “an ass’s colt” (Jno.12:14-15), along a path strewn with palm branches instead of a red carpet. He did not ride in an ornamental chariot, or even sit astride a conqueror’s steed. Instead, His blessed feet dangled on either side of a small donkey. Zechariah says that this King comes to us “lowly.” Neither His position nor His kingdom is lowly; but, rather, it is his demeanor that calls for this unlikely adjective. “I am meek and lowly in heart,” said Jesus. That is why when we meet Him in the gospels, this King washes feet, holds little children in His arms, tells stories, cries at funerals, sings with friends, fries fish over a camp fire…and rides into town on a donkey.

When God took the form of man, He gave us a picture of man at his best; and the Man, Christ Jesus demonstrated the very attribute that garners the respect of God the Father: “Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly” (Psl.138:6). Ironically enough then, the highest point in our Christian lives may not be when we are the most respected, but when we are the least noticed. But humility cannot be sought after, or else it becomes just one more bid for glory. “Humble yourselves in the sight of God,” says James (4:10), not in the sight of man.

One day Jesus will return to the earth and then He will ride the conqueror’s charger, with all the trappings that are rightfully His as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But I will not fear that King, because with all the pomp and glory and majesty, I will recognize Him as the One Who once lived among us, meek and lowly; the One I came to know as a little child.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Empty Seat

“…and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.” (1 Sam.20:18)

My husband and I began our Anniversary yesterday by standing in line at 7:00 a.m. waiting for our turn to have blood drawn for a comprehensive screening. The occasion was the Health Fair that our local hospital sponsors yearly, a time when tests such as this can be gotten for a nominal fee. While we were waiting, a crusty old gentleman (older than us!) sauntered up to talk to the couple in front of us. “How are you?” he was asked, and he shot back, “That’s what I’m here to find out!” Someone made a comment about his age and then suggested that perhaps the reason he was still living was because he had not found anyone yet to take his place. It was a whimsical observation, of course, but the idea set my mind to whirring.

We, as children of God, would all like to think that when the Lord takes us to Heaven there will be a noticeable void, if not to the world, at least, to those who knew us. But, in reality, would it not be better if there was someone (or “someones”) remaining, who would be a reminder of the fact that we had made a difference with the life God gave us? Not replicas, just reminders. As a mother, I have always hoped that my girls would bear the imprint of my touch on their lives—at least, in any positive characteristics I may possess. Though I would certainly never want them to be “me” (I have always had higher aspirations than that for them!), I suppose what I am trying to say is that if anyone ever observes that something about them is reminiscent of me, I hope they will not be disappointed.

My thoughts dovetailed into these three points: First, we only leave a void if we have carved out a place for ourselves in the lives of others; second, we can help fill the void if we have taken the time to consciously influence those lives for God and right; and three, recognition is not nearly as important as reproduction.

I bear the marks on my own life of women who have influenced me through the years. Most of their names you would not recognize, but their memory is sweet to me. (One of them was my mother.) If I sought to boast of any of any virtues, I would list first that I was wise enough to pick good role models. They live on in the things I say and do and feel, but in such a subtle way that my individuality was never in jeopardy, I trust.

In the final analysis, the most important question is not “Will I be missed?” but “Will I be represented?”

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Whatever Happened to Waiting

“But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

The inability to wait is a sign of lack of hope. That is what the verse says. Impatience shows disbelief in promises—others or our own. It says I can only trust what is under my own control at this very moment. It is not merely an indication of pessimism, but actually fatalism.

My older daughter, Leah, commented the other day on a sign she saw posted at her local Wal-Mart, acknowledging that they would no longer be offering their layaway plan for purchasing merchandise due to a lack of interest and readily available credit. (I have seen this myself, as well.) This interested her not only because it indicated a societal trend, but because she was remembering, I’m sure, how that she as a single mother often used the layaway option in order to have Christmas presents, etc., for her three boys when they were small.

She and I agreed that it says far more about us than merely a change in our buying habits. It gives us a picture of the mindset of our society. Not only do we want immediate possession, we also demand early reward and instant gratification. Buying what we want now, rather than saving for it, may be the wrong choice, in most cases; but cheating to acquire the recognition and advancement we do not want to take the time to earn, and feeling we deserve sexual pleasures God only allows married people, simply because we are “in love,” is far worse. In each case, it means we believe if we do not buy what we want now, we might never have it; or if we fail to assert our right of recognition, someone else may get it first; or if we abstain from satisfying physical desires, we may end up being (or feeling) unloved. At the least, it shows who we consider to be in charge of our lives.

If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches the high premium God puts on those who are able to wait:

Wait I say on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say on the LORD. (Psl.27:14)

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him… (Psl.37:7)

The LORD is good unto them that wait for him…(Lam.3:25)

And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. (Isa.30:18)

Perhaps God is so insistent upon, and impressed by, patience and the ability to wait, because as the last verse indicates, it is one of His own attributes. (My husband has a wonderful message taking from this text entitled, “Waiting on a Waiting God.”) We know from Romans 5:3 that tribulation works to grow patience, but tribulation is usually beyond our control. On the other hand, waiting is an exercise that requires patience, and waiting is within our control. The better we are at waiting, the stronger our patience becomes. The earthly manifestations of God required (and requires) that His people wait: Israel waited some 750 years after Isaiah’s promise for the Messiah to come to earth; the disciples waited 10 days in the upper room for the Holy Spirit to descend from Heaven; and the Church has been waiting over 2000 years for Christ to return to claim His Bride and rule and reign on the earth. The Christian life is a “waiting game,” and only those who can wait will win. It’s not how well we can work for God, but how well we can wait for Him.

“If you want to measure the strength of a man’s hope, you must measure the quietness of his waiting. Our hope is never so weak as when we are excited.”

-- George Matheson (1842-1906)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Christmas in September

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it…” (Rom.14:5-6a)

Although it is made up of a great host of true absolutes, the Word of God also includes a surprising amount of either/or’s. The Book that gives us dogmatic assurance of our origin, purpose, and final destiny, gives us plenty of elbow room when it comes to choices in life that are purely preferential. Those of us who function best in a highly structured environment can easily find a body of believers who are similarly inclined; while others of us who prize our freedom to “work out our own salvation” (Philip.2:12), so to speak, are able to fellowship with other like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, as well. I say this to prepare those you who have chosen not to celebrate Christmas at all for the fact that, by year’s end, our family will have celebrated it twice!

You see, our grandson, Benjamin, who is a young engineer in the Air Force will be in Iraq by the time 2007 is here; and besides seeing an Oakland A’s baseball game, his also wanted to have Christmas with his family while he was home for a week. Fortunately, our daughter-in-law, who loves Christmas, is always happy for any excuse to put up a Christmas tree! There was turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn-on-the cob and both vegetable and fruit salads. (By the way, Sharon somehow managed all this between duties as a hospice nurse.) The biggest gifts were for Ben, of course, but Sharon saw to it that all of us got something. While the rest of us played games, she wrapped presents and cooked, all the while keeping an eye on her grandson (and our great-grandson), Ethan. Mostly, though, her eyes were following the son who would soon be in harms way, as he laughed and joked and wolfed down his Christmas dinner.

Whatever our feelings about observing the birth of Christ, we are all agreed that had God not chosen to give His Son, there would be no reason for any of us to celebrate. Mothers and fathers like our son and his wife have some small insight into what it feels like to send a child into a foreign country to face a mortal enemy, just as God did. I told Ben, as I hugged his neck one last time before going home that I would be praying and waiting for Christmas next year, when we would all, God willing, once more sit around the table together. And one day, we who are the children of God will all sit around God’s table, and our eyes will look upon the One who stepped into harm’s way for us. We will rejoice that then there will be no more heartache, no more sickness, no more pain, no more dying…and no more war.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:” (Deut.32:11)

According to this verse in Deuteronomy, the husband and father may rule the roost, but the wife and mother is the one who feathers the nest. He puts a roof over their heads, but she puts home in their hearts. I am speaking of the ideal situation, of course. We all know that in single parent homes, one parent is faced with the daunting task of trying to play two roles calling for completely different abilities. No father should be forced to flutter and spread comforting wings; and no mother should have to single-handedly face outside forces that would endanger her young. Only sin, in one form or another, leads to such confusion of duties.

Whether a mother is able to play her role as God ordained it, or if she is forced, as I said, to cover all the bases, at least part if not all of the time, she should never forget that her chief role in life is that of a “nester.” Her wings of love and protection may flutter and spread over her young when they are small, or they may only be a “shadow,” when they are older; but either way, they will always be a refuge (Psl.57:1). When our Lord wanted to show the depth of his love and agony of soul for a Jerusalem that had turned its back on Him, He cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34). A wayward son or daughter cannot be forced back into the fold, but that does not keep a mother from crying from the depths of her soul, “Oh, my child!”

In addition, I would remind us that it is the mother who must be one to actually “stir up the nest.” The father may (and should) be the one to prepare the child for the day when he or she will leave the nest. But it is the mother who will have to give the final shove. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, emotionally. She made it comfortable, now she must make it leave-able. No eaglet can soar to the heavens while always looking back to the nest. According to Luke 7:1-10, those with the greatest faith require the least attention; and those children who are most confident have less need for regular booster shots from their parents. (Note to my children: This has nothing to do with the practice of maternal updates, which is a very good thing!)

I, for one, relish my role as a mother eagle…or a mother hen. I have had many interests, and I like to think I am always trying to hone the gifts God has given me; but I have had only one “career.” It has brought all the fulfillment one could hope for. It is five-fold: the husband God gave me, and the four children we produced together. Everything else is just icing on the cake. So go ahead; mark me up as a “happy-nester!”

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Right to Reason

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right…” (Num.27:6-7a)

C.S. Lewis considered a woman’s powers of reasoning, generally speaking, to be better suited for “psychological and sociological problems,” while the “masculine mind” (in general) is more capable of a “disinterested concern for truth for truth’s own sake.” He recognized the need for both and felt that one of many bad results of the “equality” argument was the forced mixing of the two, which, more often then not, only serves to water down both. I must admit, it seems to me that women come to conclusions (even the same conclusions) in different ways than men do (again, generally speaking); but to refer to ours as being mere feminine intuition does not, in my opinion, acknowledge the possibilities of the mind God has given each of us with which to love Him (Matt.22:37).

In the story found in Numbers twenty-seven, the daughters of Zelphehad came to Moses for recourse against a perceived injustice. God had said, through Moses, that the land they would soon be coming into possession of, was to be divided among the families of Israel, passing from the fathers to the sons. In the case of these young women, however, their father, who had faithfully followed Moses, was dead; and he had left no sons, only five daughters. Had there been sons, these girls would not have sought to usurp their place. They merely pointed out that, unless some exception was made, their father’s inheritance, and his good name, would be forgotten. Moses immediately saw this for what it was: a thoughtful—reasoned—argument. And as verse seven tells us, God agreed. He did not say, “These are just women worked up over some petty grievance.” He said, “They’re right; give ‘em what they asked for!” God loves to be worshipped and adored, but He also likes to be reasoned with. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isa.1:18). And mark it well; He did not limit this invitation to men. Ask the Syrophenician woman in Mark seven, if you have any doubts about it. In both of these instances, we find the Creator agreeing with His creation. Only a truly omnipotent God would dare to bestow the gift of reasoning upon His creation.

Never relinquish your claim to a personal audience with the Father because you are questioning something that is happening to you. He already knows about your doubts, and for you not to acknowledge them in His presence is to question His reasonableness. You have the right to reason; and, even better, when the will of God is certain, you have the power to obey (Philip.2:13).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Not My Thing"

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

“Church is not my thing.” It might surprise you to know that this statement came from a Christian. Then again, it might not. I was somewhat taken back, however, because, contrary to this individual’s habits, church was our Lord’s “thing” (Luke 4:16), as well as Paul’s (Acts 17:2) and the disciples’ (Acts 20:17). I am well aware that church attendance is not a prerequisite for justification before God, nor is it a guarantee of an intimate relationship with Him as a Father. But I am also aware that the Church of Jesus Christ, from its inception, has always met together in local bodies to hear the Word of God expounded, encourage one another in holy living, observe the two ordinances given to the Church (The Lord’s Table and Believer’s Baptism), and discover ways of sharing the Gospel around the world. The size of the meeting place or the number of people involved is inconsequential so long as these things are happening.

This is not a bone of contention with me. I understand there are times when one is unable to be in the Lord’s house. It is a lack of any desire to be there that I find inscrutable—that “solitary conceit,” as C.S. Lewis calls it. Church membership, or even fellowship, does not make one a Christian any more than swimming in water makes one a fish. But there is something about actual fish that makes them at home in the water…something innate. Here’s the thing: wherever my husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandbaby, brother, sisters, or those related by marriage are, that’s where I want to be. “Of course,” you say, “They’re family!” Hmmm….

I’m glad church has always been “my thing.” One could (and does) do a whole lot worse.

Friday, September 8, 2006


“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1Cor. 2:4)

In a day when free speech has claimed for itself the right of forced listening, we can hardly turn on the TV or radio without seeing or hearing about “demonstrations.” That is, men, women (and children) on streets somewhere, sitting, standing, or marching in order to call attention to some cause or injustice, real or merely perceived. In some cases, I may be sympathetic to their premise, though not their procedure. Strength of numbers is never a substitute for strength of argument, as far as I am concerned. Others may disagree, and, obviously, they have their right, as they have demonstrated. (Sorry!)

However, I would contend that demonstration, in the original sense of the word, is a fact of life, whether in a street or in a life. We are all demonstrating in one way or another. The Latin meaning of the word “demonstrate” is “to completely show.” It is giving visual meaning to audible claims, in the same way that the life of Joseph puts clothes on Romans 8:28. That precious promise in the New Testament is true and always applicable, but seeing it played out in the life of a young boy unjustly mistreated, but eventually raised to a throne, makes it—can I say, more believable?

Our witnessing for the Lord will be much more “believable” if our lives are not sending out contradictory signals. Under most circumstances, acknowledging that I am a child of God should be the natural conclusion of a life that has preceded that acknowledgement. I thought about this a few days ago when I found myself walking laps around a soccer field with a young woman who was telling she had never really had a good friend. Having become acquainted with her the previous semester, and knowing she had sought me out for companionship, it was easy to say to her, “I have known my best Friend since I was nine.” She was instantly intrigued and I was then able to share my Faith with her. She explained she had never been religious (her father was an atheist), and I remarked, “Neither have I. I’m not talking about a religion; I’m talking about a relationship.” None of this seemed odd to her, although I could tell it was new. When I found out she came from a very unaffectionate family, I told her, “Whenever you need a hug, just let me know.” She smiled and said, “O.K.” It is a good start, I think, to a truly meaningful witness. I pray so.

I study and read and try to prepare myself for arguments that I face in the classroom, but I am conscious that, like Paul, in the final analysis, it will not be my “enticing words,” that win the day, but the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in my everyday life. The message of the Cross and salvation in Christ needs to be “preached” to the world; but I have to earn the right to be heard, if I expect to be an effective witness. Like you, I am demonstrating—every day of my life. The question is: What are we demonstrating?

What you are, it speaks so loud,
That the world can’t hear what you say.
They’re looking at your walk,
Not listening to your talk;
They’re judging from your actions everyday.

Don’t believe you’ll deceive
By claiming what you’ve never known.
They’ll accept what they see and know you to be;
They’ll judge from your life alone.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

The Art of Prioritization

“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end...” (1 Cor.15:23-24a)

I thought about this last week when I faced the daunting task of changing from a larger to a smaller purse (for now). At times like this, you are forced to choose between the handy and the essential, right? Fortunately, I have ceased trying to play the role of the universal donor for every minor crisis. Now that my children are gone, there is less need for the virtual first-aid kit I used to carry!

The longer I live, the more I see that the people who accomplish the most in life—spiritually and otherwise—are the ones who know how to effectively prioritize. God Himself, Who has neither beginning nor ending, nevertheless works with man in an orderly fashion, putting first things first, as the cited verse shows. I talked to someone recently who related to me a conversation he had with someone who was allowing something truly harmful to be a part of his or her child’s entertainment. When he pointed this out, the parent acknowledged the problem, but stated that removing the bad would cost the loss of something that was not bad, as well; as though that were a legitimate reason for leaving the child morally in danger. This is a classic case of warped priorities.

It all goes back to mindset. If my goal is temporal, seeking to get all I can out of life and experience all that my physical senses are capable of, this will determine what I put first in line in my choices. On the other hand, if my goal is eternal, putting all I can into life and experiencing the exhilaration of holy purpose, this, too, will be manifested by the position of importance I give to the kingdom of God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt.6:33). C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

The thing to remember is, in most cases, the “second things” are quite legitimate. It is simply that they are of less consequence than the “first things.” Perhaps this is why so many people get it wrong. It takes maturity to discern good from better, and there are many immature individuals, both in and out of the church.

I am doing quite well now with my smaller purse. As you might imagine, I have played this scenario before—both ways. I know now what is truly important and what, in the final analysis, only amounts to clutter. And one nice thing about perfecting the art of wise prioritizing in life is that when the time comes to begin downsizing, you will already know where to start. Like the smaller purse, I am finding that I need less and less to maneuver through these final steps in my walk of faith; because, in the final analysis, much of life is just clutter.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Fulfilling of the Law

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Jno.13:34-35)

It was the beginning of the end of Jesus’ time on earth, and there were things that needed to be said—final instructions given, and priorities laid down (Jno.13:1). His motivating force through the past thirty-three years had been, and still was, love (Jno.13:1). And, before He explained just how important it is in the life a true believer, Jesus gave the disciples a picture of love’s demeanor: humility. He condescended to wash the feet of men who were unworthy to even loosen His shoes (Mk.1:7). Afterward, when Peter failed to see past the immediate action, Jesus told him, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (v.7). Humility and love go beyond ritual and figure to life and practice. Washing dirty feet may be a beautiful picture, but putting our arms around a dirty sinner says more about our Christianity.

After giving them a pictorial introduction, our Lord then issues a “new commandment.” New, only in the sense that it was not spelled out in the original list. The kind of love their Lord displayed that day (and all other days) was to be their pattern as His disciples. “If you can love one another the way I have loved you,” He assured them, “everything else will fall into place.” This one thing—Biblical love—was to be their badge. The thing that would set them apart from non-disciples. In fact, it is so telling a characteristic of a follower of Christ that the world will use it as a litmus test for our authenticity. Of course, among ourselves, as believers, we know that adherence to Biblical doctrine and teaching identifies one as a true believer, but love for the brethren is part of this (1Jno.3:14), and it is the only part that a lost world is capable of comprehending. When it comes to sending a message to the world, love trumps every badge, bumper sticker, T-shirt, bracelet, or Christian “uniform” we might choose to wear. Jesus is not saying that if I ever fail in Christian love (as we all do from time to time), I am not a Christian; what He is saying is that when I do, the world has every right to believe I am not.

Where does this “new commandment” stand in relation to the Decalogue, then? Ah, that is the all-important question. In Matthew twenty-two, Jesus was asked by a lawyer to single out the greatest commandment in the law; to which our Lord replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (37-40). The love thing again—we cannot get away from it, can we? To paraphrase, you’ll never get the hang of the Ten Commandments without love. As G. Campbell Morgan says, “Every breach of the Decalogue is a violation of love.” If I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, I will not be tempted to put any other god before Him, resort to spiritual tokens, invoke His name indiscriminately, or fail to set aside one day of the week exclusively for Him. Nor will I dishonor parents that I truly love. If I love my neighbor as myself, I will not kill him, violate his marriage, steal from him, lie about him, or lust after what he has. Jesus, in His own words, did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matt.5:17); and He did fulfill it…by love. “[T]herefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom.13:10b). Our only hope, then, as believers, is to allow the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts (Rom.5:5) to become the handle that fits all ten of the original commandments. It is the only thing that makes them workable.

What does this kind of love look like? Well, First Corinthians thirteen gives us a good idea; but I think one sentence in Morgan’s book on the Ten Commandments opened my eyes in a new and living way: “The supreme evidence of the life of love lies in the fact that love takes the blame attached to others.” One has only to look at Calvary, the highest expression of love, to see the validity of that statement. He, who was blameless, took our blame (Rom.15:3). You and I cannot claim blamelessness, yet we are so quick to take the spotlight of individual blame off ourselves and shine it on another. And this can prove disastrous in a life. Like the prodigal son, until we are willing to acknowledge that no matter what part others have played in our lives, we alone are to blame for our sin, we will never exchange the hog pen for the Father’s house.

As you go about your duties, remember that keeping God’s commandments are the “whole duty of man” (Ecc.12:13). Every other “duty” must fit within that framework, if the approval of God means anything at all to us. Remember, too, without love, the keeping of the law is just an exercise in futility; and to break the first and greatest commandment—to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind—is to commit the greatest sin of all. In short, if you don’t know love, you don’t know God (1Jno.4:8).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Mother of All Sins

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his neighbour’s.” (Exo.20:17)

Thomas Watson refers to covetousness as “a mother sin, a radical vice,” because it gives birth to all nine of the other commandments. It was Lucifer’s desire to have God’s place that precipitated his attempt to mount an insurrection in heaven; and it is man’s desire for supreme authority that causes him to become a god unto himself, fashion personal tokens of holiness, and invoke the name of God in pretence. Covetousness would deny respect and remuneration to parents who gave us life and love, as well as room and board; it would take the life, spouse, or possessions of another, for personal gratification; and it loosens the tongue of the slanderer. No wonder Paul categorizes the covetous individual with whoremongers and idolaters in Ephesians 5:5, and Peter describes them as having “eyes full of adulteries,” who “cannot cease from sin, who “[beguile] unstable souls,” and whose hearts are virtually “exercised with covetousness” (2Pet.2:14). G. Campbell Morgan paints a vivid picture of covetousness: “…fever which makes the eye glisten with a false luster, the cheek flush with deceitful color, the muscles twitch with unnatural activity, the nerves throb with restless desire.”

Covetousness is, of course, an internal sin, which, in the final analysis, the worst kind. This last commandment comes closest of the ten to Jesus’ elaboration of the Decalogue in the New Testament, where He goes past the outward to the root. We cannot see covetousness, but it will subsequently rear its ugly head, just as the virus that causes chicken pox, herpes, or shingles can lie dormant in the body for many years before manifesting itself outside the body. Covetousness is so much a part of us that Paul says in Romans seven, we would not even recognize it to as sin, if God had not told us in the Bible. And when we do find it out, we say, “Who can conquer it then?” To which the obvious answer is, “No one,” which is Paul’s point exactly in the book of Romans. If one would be foolish enough to rattle through the Ten Commandments, claiming immunity, he or she would come to a screeching halt at number ten. The fact that within all of us lies the sin of wanting more than what is enough, is proof that we must look for justification before God elsewhere. And here we see the truth of Galatians 3:24: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law cannot justify us. In fact, it will testify against us, so that the wise man or woman will cry, “I need a lawyer!” And, thank God, One steps in (1Tim.2:5).

The opposite of covetousness is contentment. That is why Paul says, “[G]odliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim.6:6). Those individuals who are content with who they are, where they are, and what they have, are less likely to succumb to the pangs of desiring what is beyond their legitimate reach. As long as you and I are in these mortal bodies, covetousness will never be cured; but it can be greatly contained. Thomas Watson, in his wonderful work on the Ten Commandments, suggests the best way:

The root of covetousness is distrust of God’s providence. Faith believes that God will provide; that he who feeds the birds will feed his children; that he who clothes the lilies will clothe his lambs, and thus faith overcomes the world. Faith is the cure of care. It not only purifies the heart, but satisfies it; it makes God our portion, and in him we have enough. ‘The lord is the portion of mine inheritance, the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’(Psa.16:5-5) Faith, by a divine chemistry, extracts comfort out of God. A little with God is sweet. Thus faith is a remedy against covetousness.

This concludes God’s holy law, as given to man through Moses. They are what they are: commandments, not suggestions; and when God says, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” He is really saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.” They were not given as an explanation, for we would have been accountable to Him, if He had never given them, simply because of who He is. He gave them to help us understand His holiness and our deficiency. They were part of wooing us to Himself, finding out how badly we need Him, and what He was willing to do to make Himself accessible. We should take these commandments as seriously as He does. And, if we love Him, we will (Jno.14:15). But just before we close the door on this mini-series on the Decalogue, I think we should consider one more commandment. The one Jesus called, “a new commandment.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thy Neighbor

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

Romans 13:9 makes it abundantly clear that the last five commandments have to do with our conduct and attitude toward our neighbor. “Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And it is only those who are trying to change the subject and justify themselves, who have to say, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). It certainly goes beyond the people next door, because we can be sure the unfortunate Jew in the story Jesus went on to tell, in Luke, did not live next door to the Samaritan! Those people we rub shoulders with all through life have every right to expect that we will do them no bodily harm, steal from them, lie about them, nor violate their marriages. And we know by these last five decrees from God Almighty that He expects it, too.

What then can we safely say about this ninth commandment? Well, obviously, it has to do with lying about another person. It is planting in the mind of one individual, something about another individual, that is false. We know, of course, from other verses, that lying about anything is wrong (Col.3:9-10; Prov.19:22; Prov.6:16-17; Eph.4:25, etc.). You are aware, however, that there are instances in the Bible when someone actually did lie, but was seemingly not faulted for it (for example, Rahab). I do not pretend to be able to reconcile this with the clear teaching against lying, but I have never taken it to be justification for my own prevarication. On the other hand, I am not aware of any place in the Bible where giving false witness about another person was ever condoned. On the contrary, Proverbs 25:18 says of such an individual that he or she is a “maul [hammer or club], and a sword, and a sharp arrow.” Paul gives testimony of being “slanderously reported” of concerning his teaching about the grace of God (Rom.3:8); and we all know that, humanly speaking, our Lord was put to death because of two false witnesses, who could not even get their stories straight (Mk.14:56).

The slanderer is the most flagrant offender when it comes to this particular sin. It is a offense that costs the perpetrator little effort, either physically or mentally, yet it harvests the greatest havoc. More “bang for your buck,” so to speak. Hearts have been broken, homes destroyed, and lives ruined by a false witness who methodically or flippantly planted seeds of doubt against the character of his or her “neighbor.” In reality, though, it is only the reputation of the innocent victim that can be harmed. As G. Campbell Morgan has said,“To be right with God depends upon character, and character is not affected by reputation. Character is the engraving of the being upon a man, of the true facts concerning him. Reputation is the estimate which others form of him. The latter should ever be dependent upon the other." Besides slander, there are other means of violation, as well. For instance, insincere flattery, vague false impressions, incorrect attribution of motive, and even silence. When someone is wrongly accused in our presence, and we fail to set the record straight, we are guilty of condoning a false witness. When “devout Jews,” who had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost, began to speak in languages other than their own, they were accused by others standing nearby of being “full of new wine.” But Peter quickly rose to defend them against this slander by saying, “[T]hese are not drunken as ye suppose” (Acts 2:13-15). And, it goes without saying that giving false testimony about someone, under oath, is a breach of civil, as well as God’s, law.

As women, with our so called “intuition,” we are sometimes quick to prejudge and, worse, to pass along that judgment to others. I don’t know about you, but I have been wrong about people enough to be suspicious of my innate intuitions. In any case, as Oswald Chambers says, “God never gives us discernment in order to criticize, but that we may intercede.” The slanderer cares nothing for his neighbor, and little for his God. The latter says of such an individual:

“He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Yours, Mine, and God's

“Thou shalt not steal.” (Exo.20:15)

Martin Luther said of thieves, “If we are to hang them all, where shall we get rope enough?” Because of its many possible forms that range from the obvious to the most subtle and sinister, stealing sometimes seems more like an art than an offense. The most adept are considered shrewd, if guilty; and those who claim good intentions are lionized (Robin Hood). We live in an age that looks for heroes in sports arenas, on a movie screen, or gyrating on a music stage, and it is no wonder that men and women of honesty and diligence are often regarded as people who have not learned the fine art of “easy money.” This may be true, but they are smart enough to know, “easy come—easy go” (Prov.13:11).

The first thing this commandment tells me is that God endorses private ownership. Thievery pre-supposes it. Communism is not a Biblical concept, Acts 2:44 notwithstanding. It is one thing for you and I to voluntarily pool our assets for our good and the good of others; it is quite another for a government to arbitrarily take your possessions and land to distribute to strangers, for whatever reasons. Literally, all we have belongs to God, and He allows personal possession of what has been lawfully acquired.

But how do we acquire possessions? Only one of three ways, avers G. Campbell Morgan. They are received as a gift from another person; they are given in exchange for labor accomplished or services rendered; or they are stolen. The first two are legitimate in God’s sight. Ephesians 4:28 seems to bear this out:

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour,
working with his hands the thing which is good, that he
may have to give to him that needeth.”

All three of the means mentioned are found in this verse. Labor and the reception of a gift are laid starkly against the practice of robbery. And Paul does not mince words. “If you’re doing it, quit it!” he says. It does not take consideration, only determination.

We should probably point out those forms of thievery less obvious than, say, robbing a bank! How about unfair wages, or under par work? Both are a fraud. Then there is borrowing without returning. What else is that but theft? The gambler puts money in his pocket that he neither earned nor received as a personal gift. The wise man says of such a man,
The chronic time waster or late-comer steals time, of which life itself is made up of. And Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that those who steal others thoughts or ideas and claim them as their own, are thieves of the worse sort. It’s called plagiarism. Of course, adultery plunders another man or woman’s marriage, and fornication steals virtue from both participants. But probably the worse thievery of all is when you or I purloin glory and honor that rightfully belongs to God. It is easy to blithely say, “I give God all the glory,” while we bathe in all the praise. It was Herod who blatantly refused to give God the glory and ended up as worm food (Acts 12:21-23)

I would like to end by telling you something my sister told me about our only brother. (He’s 74, but we still call him Billy!) She said that when he was born, during Depression days, Mother and Dad did not have any way at the time to pay the doctor who came to the house to deliver him. For some reason, I do not know why, it turned out that he was never paid. According to the story, my brother, when he was grown and made aware of this oversight, found that doctor and paid for his own delivery. It was an honest debt that deserved to be paid and my brother is an honest man. He may not have the adulation of a movie star or a sports figure, but he has always had the respect of his children and grandchildren (and his sisters, who still make over him).

Stealing is a manifestation of selfishness, discontent, and low regard for oneself and others. It indicates an inability to maneuver through life in a straight-forward, clear-eyed manner. There are those who boast standards of dress and conduct that snicker at shrewd business deals and “harmless” pilfering. But God does not see it that way. It tells more about our character than our church affiliation does. To some among us, “Thou shalt not steal,” really means, “Thou shalt not get caught.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Scarlet Sin

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exo.20:14)

What used to be called “the scarlet sin” is barely pink in today’s society. Sexual sin, before or after marriage, may be risky, but it is certainly not risqué. “Everybody does it.” Yes, everybody who values pleasure more than purity; and everybody who fears being ostracized more they fear the wrath of God (Heb.13:4). Two years ago, I wrote on this subject as part of a study in the book of Proverbs. I have decided that it still says what I want to say today; therefore, I am reproducing it here, in nearly its entirety. As I re-read it, I was challenged anew to guard my heart and my body, wherein dwells the Spirit of God. I pray it will speak to you, as well.


Sparkling Waters or Poisoned Spring

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” (Prov.5:15)

Just as diamonds are displayed on black velvet to bring out their brilliance, in this chapter, the joys of marriage dazzle against the miseries of illicit love. If Proverbs teaches anything, it teaches the folly of trifling with sexual sins. The “strange woman” is mentioned and described numerous times and presents a contrast to the feminine personification of wisdom in the book, as well as stark disparity from the woman in chapter thirty-one.

Marriage has been under attack from the Garden of Eden to the present day. The onslaught has only intensified through time, till, looking around, one is tempted to suspect it may be drawing its last breaths. In the last thirty or forty years, it has come to be considered only one of many avenues for expressing love along with such arrangements as living together on a trial or semi-permanent basis or just an occasional rendezvous. Apparently, love and marriage no longer go together “like a horse and carriage.” And now, suddenly, marriage has gained new “champions”—homosexuals and lesbians. Just when we were convinced this ungodly world system had given up on marriage, devotees of sexual perversion have decided it may be a good thing after all. Now, not only has marriage been trivialized, it’s been bastardized. Thank God, while all this social experimentation has been going on, God’s Word, “that liveth and abideth forever,” has remained unchanged: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb.13:4). The intimate expression of love is only honorable if it is takes place within the confines of marriage, which Ephesians five makes clear is a binding covenant between a man and a woman. Anything else dishonors God, society, and the participants themselves (1 Cor.6:18). God restricts sex to marriage, not, writes Warren Wiersbe, to rob us of pleasure but “to increase pleasure and protect it.”

The lips of the strange woman are said to “drop as an honeycomb,” and her mouth is “smoother than oil” (5:3). Stolen waters are advertised as being sweet (9:17), but it is a sweetness that is cloying—sickening sweet. In the same way overindulgence in rich food leaves us with almost a revulsion to it, the first taste of unholy, unlawful sex may pleasure the sensual palate; but, in the end, it becomes “bitter as wormwood” (v.4; cp. Rev.8:11). No wonder Solomon wails in bitter regret, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” (5:12-13)

If the preceding verses are a picture of the disease, verse fifteen provides a preventative: “Drink waters out of your own well,” says Solomon in verse fifteen. “Get your lovin’ at home!” There are no sweeter waters than these. The couple whose love enjoys the smile of God, enjoys also the fullness of its pleasures. Or, at least they should. God is the Author of marital intimacy, and any sex education that does not take that into consideration is just basic biology equivalent to the “birds and the bees.”

Paul says it this way: “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1Cor.7:2). Obviously, when Paul says “every man” and “every woman,” he is making a general statement, since he goes on to say that as far as he is concerned, there are times when marriage is not practical or even possible. He makes sure, however, that we know these circumstances are the exception and not the rule. But, either way, sex outside the marriage bond is forbidden. And when the Bible speaks, the argument is over. In the case of a single man or woman, it is fornication; when a married person indulges in it, it is adultery.

As a woman, verse nineteen challenges me in two ways: To bring to my marriage the serenity typified by the quiet deer (“Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe”); coupled with the exuberance expressed in the latter portion of the verse (“…be thou always ravished always with her love.”) It is not always easy to balance these two dimensions, since most of us lean one way more than the other. But because life can be a roller-coater sometimes, ideally, my love should be both restful and ravishing

Verses sixteen through eighteen use phrases that picture these waters of satisfaction breaking forth into fountains “dispersed abroad,” and rivers that will spill out “into the streets.” These are the children of a godly union who flow into the mainstream of life with the underpinning of loving, faithful parents—faithful to God, one another, and the confidence of their children.

The final picture in chapter five is a warning to us that sin is always binding. “He shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (v.22). I remember once when our children were young, my husband made this Biblical object lesson come to life by taking everyday sewing thread and wrapping it slowly around the wrists of our younger son. The first few strands were easily broken, making Josh quite confident in his own strength. After several more were added, however, it became harder and harder, till he was finally forced to admit he could no longer break them. With sin, repetition forms the habit, and the habit becomes the ruling principle. This is especially true of sexual sins. The wise man or woman will turn away from the first strand of its insidious threads.


I will only add to this Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 5:11, where he predicts the end for those who will not heed his words of warning. You will, says he, “…mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bloody Murder

“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exo. 22:13)

Without resorting to confirmation from the Hebrew (consult Strong’s Concordance, if you must), we find a reliable interpretation of the word “kill” in Matthew 19:18, where Jesus Christ renders it thus: “Thou shalt do no murder.” (There’s nothing like getting it straight from the Author!) You have often heard the truism “All murder is killing; but not all killing is murder.” Before we delve into that, however, I want to impress upon you, if I can, the reason why something we see portrayed non-stop in movies, television, video games, and nearly all other forms of media—to the point that we have almost come to see it as a viable form of death—is, in reality, an inexcusable affront to God. Whether it is homicide, suicide, infanticide, feticide, or “accela-cide” (my own word for euthanasia), to cause the cessation of life in another human being is to stand in the place of God, whose image we bear. There is at least one occasion, however, where God actually does ask us to stand in His place in the matter of taking a life.

God told the only eight people left on the earth after the Flood, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (cp. Num.35:31). New Testament verses such as Romans 13:1-4 echo this mandate, and Paul the Apostle readily admitted that there are some crimes “worthy of death,” even saying, if he had committed such a crime, he would not refuse to die (Acts 25:11). And our Lord, who had committed no crime at all, and who justifiably could have called down ten-thousand angels to vindicate Him (Matt.26:53), claimed no extenuating circumstances, witness perjury, or prejudicial ruling (all true), when He was facing execution. Instead, He submitted to capital punishment, because He was representing you and me, who were patently guilty. Therefore, any argument against the death penalty must look somewhere other than that Bible for substantiation.

It has been suggested that capital punishment is not a deterrent, but unbiased statistics prove otherwise; and, in any case, it is deterrent to the executed murderer! In today’s world of DNA testing, however, where cases of individuals on death row have been found to be innocent, the possibility of executing an innocent person is held up. Frankly, though, it seems to me that in today’s court system, where capital punishment is years in coming, if ever, there are far more murderers are living among us than are executed (i.e., Sirhan Sirhan, who at least a dozen people saw shoot Robert Kennedy).

On the other hand, the lives of innocent babies, just weeks away from being cuddled, are snuffed out, with less compunction than the drowning of kittens. Mark it well; when those who operate these abortion mills wash their hands after performing their unholy procedures, they are like Pilate, whose hand washing was not, nor ever will be, enough. God is not unmindful of their sin or that of the women who willfully deprived the hopeful life within them of seeing the light of day. These little ones, however, have the promise of Psalm 22:10: “I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.”

Finally, it should be remembered that murder can always be traced back to its matrix—hatred. “Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer” (1Jno.3:15a); “Ye have heard that it is was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt.5:21-22a). Even so-called “senseless” killing is prompted by hatred of someone—the victim, who the victim represents in the perpetrator’s mind…or God. Murder is inward hatred and malice that has been cherished and nursed to fruition. To God, who is ever mindful of the root, hatred is murder. Man, who cannot see the root, is only responsible to punish the act. Those of us who are adamant that the government fulfill its duty to punish murderers should be careful not to allow bitterness to take root in our hearts, where it can quickly metastasize into hatred.

The only place of forgiveness for one who has shed the blood of another human being, however it is done, is at the foot of a bloody Cross. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col.1:14). Only blood covers blood. And, in order to appease a Holy God, only Jesus’ Blood will do. God is the Giver of life, and only He is entitled to decide when it should end. We have no right, as individuals, to take our own or anyone else’s.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Bridge Between

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Exo. 20:12)

The fact that God wrote His list of ten prerequisites to holiness on two tables of stone has caused many to speculate on how they were divided. The most obvious answer would be five and five, but this would include the fifth one in with the first four that deal with our relationship to God. Therefore some would divide the commandments into two groups of four and six. I, however, am inclined to see the fifth as a bridge that connects the two. The subtle parallel between our relationship to our parents—especially our fathers—and our relationship to God, is too significant to be overlooked. Indeed Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in his notes on Exodus, has said, “All faith in God centers in the filial feeling. Our parents stand between us and God in a way in which no other beings can.” A child’s response to his or her parents—especially a grown child—is so interwoven with response to God that to assert fellowship with either one of them without the other is an empty, unsatisfying claim. First, I think a distinction must be made between obedience and honor.

Notice that the commandment does not use either the word “children” or “obedience.” This is because it is a life-long commandment, demanding honor, which only involves obedience when the son or daughter is a child. Genuine obedience is unquestioning (unless it requires disobedience to God’s laws); and to apply this criteria to adult children is to undermine personal responsibility and stunt developmental possibilities. There can be no growth without questions and the possibility for change. As G. Campbell Morgan, in his lessons on the Ten Commandments, points out, “A boy will never be a man if he must always obey his parents.” The grown child need not thrust aside parental teaching in a blustery show of independence; but, on the other hand, he or she must understand that parental teaching cannot be the sole consideration when making decisions about the determination of one’s own life. The child who seeks to fulfill the fifth commandment will seek counsel of godly parents, and that counsel will weigh heavily in his or her decision making processes, but he or she will recognize that the final responsibility for those decisions rests with him or her. For this reason, the heaviest vote in any decision should rest in the oracles of God.

In yet another example, honor to parents is shown by speaking respectfully to and about them (1Kings 2:20; Prov.31:28); and by giving reverential recognition (Gen.46:29; 1Kings 2:19). In a passage of curses against reprehensible behavior, we read this cutting sentence: “Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother” (Deut.27:16). Would this not speak of those sons and daughters who are ever belittling their parents, in or out of their presence, whether living or dead? It is a sobering thought, to be sure. Honor is also seen in the grown child’s solicitous care of his or her aging parents. Our Lord exemplified this with His own mother (Jno.19:26-27). And it was He who berated those who give offerings to the church, while neglecting parents who were in need (Mk.7:9-12). One of my husband’s greatest sorrows is that, as a young pastor of a growing church, he gave sacrificially to missions, while his aged mother lived on meager means. He realizes now that while he made sure she had what she needed, she never received what she deserved.

Children should honor their parents as long as they (the children) live. They should do it, first and foremost, because it is commanded by God. They should honor the love and the cost that went into their upbringing. Godly parents often take more care of their children than themselves. Thomas Watson reminds us, “Children never can equal a parent’s love, for parents are the instruments of life to their children, and children cannot be so to their parents.” To honor one’s parents is “well pleasing” to God (Col.3:20). So much so that we are told in Ephesians 6:3 that it is a potent ingredient for long life. It is not so much “the announcement of a personal reward” as it is “the declaration of the result of accepting and acting upon a philosophy,” suggests Campbell Morgan. He expains, “Character moulded in the atmosphere of honor to parents has within it the element of quiet power which tends to prolong life. On the other hand, character formed in an atmosphere of insubjection has within it the element of recklessness and fever which tends to the shortening of life.”

It goes without saying that children, young and old, will find it abundantly easier to honor honorable parents. Parents who deprive their children of physical, emotional, or spiritual needs, or who provoke them to anger by disproportionate, unfair discipline, partiality, or hypocritical living, saddle their children with a task well nigh impossible to accomplish—rendering honor and respect. Still, the command stands; and God considers it so important that He places it in the place between our relationship with Him and those around us. In many cases it is a “bridge over troubled waters,” because so often our failure to succeed in life—especially in the Christian life—is a direct result of our failure to give proper honor to those who were God’s first gift to us…our parents.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Sabbath: A Sign and a Standard

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work.” (Exo.20:7-8)

It is obvious from Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, that the sabbath was a sign between God and Israel. “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever…” (Exo.3:16-17a); “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”(Col.2:16). Why, then, is it included in these ten mandates God gave for all men and women, for all time? It is because the standard of six days of labor and one day of rest is a principle God laid down, not for His benefit, but ours. “And he [Jesus] said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mk.2:27). As verse eleven of Exodus twenty tells us, God Himself utilized it. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth…and rested on the seventh day…” Obviously, He did not need to rest, as we know it, but He set the pattern for us of six days of labor then one day of cessation and contemplation.

This would be a good time to remind ourselves that there are two parts to this commandment: First, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work”; and second, “But on the seventh day…thou shalt not do any work…” One is as mandatory as the other. Some would want to observe one without the other. But, the labor is part of what makes the rest so sweet; and the sabbath-rest is what gives meaning to the work. The sabbath was a day to turn from the material to the spiritual. In reality, every day belongs to God, because He alone gives life, but, as with the tithe, He graciously exacts only a portion of it to be given exclusively to Him.

Mark 2:28 tells us, “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” It only stands to reason then that the Lord who instituted the principle of the sabbath can decide on which day it should be observed. After the Resurrection, it was not on the sabbath (Saturday) that the risen Lord first appeared to His disciples but “the first day of the week” (Sunday), indicating that from now on, this would be His day—the Lord’s Day. And to show that the disciples understood this to be the case, Sunday was the day when they met together to preach and “break bread” (Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2). It was only fitting that Sunday would become the day of remembrance. The sabbath was a memorial to the Creation; but the Lord’s Day is a memorial to the Resurrection. In Creation, God gave us life; in redemption, He gave us eternal life. The former required only His voice; but the latter cost Him His Blood. The sabbath was a day of contemplation; we gather together on the Lord’s Day for celebration.

What should characterize our observance of the Lord’s Day? Well, first and foremost, it should be His day. If we are physically able, some part of it should be spent fellowshipping with His people. Are there activities that we do through the week that would not be appropriate on His day? Probably. We read in Isaiah 58:13-14, "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the his places of the earth…” Again, this is Israel, and this is their sabbath; but the principle is unmistakable. God has set aside one day for Himself, and He expects us to respect that by setting aside our own pleasure, our own ways, and our own words for His

These first four commandments dealt with our relationship to God. The other six will get down to the nitty-gritty of how we are to treat one another. The first ones were necessary before the last ones could even be considered. There are no ethics apart from God. As Matthew Henry said, “If you’re not true to God, you will never be true to man.” So far, we have seen that God will not settle for second place in your life, and we must never rely on anything material to interfere with our worship of Him. His name is holy and we should never desecrate it by anything we say or do…or fail to do. And finally, He has asked that one day out of seven be set aside exclusively for Himself. If we can’t manage that, we probably don’t deserve His name.