Thursday, March 30, 2006

Minister of Refreshment

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he hath oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.” (2 Tim. 1:16)

In our church, besides our senior Pastor, who ministers ably to us weekly, we also have a Minister of Music and Worship, a Minister of Finances, a Minister of Membership Care and Counseling, as well as ministers for both the youth and children. In the early Church, if they had chosen to employ such titles, I’m sure dear Onesiphorus would have been called the “Minister of Refreshment.” And lest you think too lightly of this post, I would remind you that Paul never mentioned his name without praising his gift. “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (Philemon 7).

How did Onesiphorus conduct his duties as “chief refresher?” we may ask. One thing is for sure; whatever it was did not just refresh the body, it renewed the inward man to the very “bowels of the saints."

Looking elsewhere in the Word, we may find some clues. Saul’s soul was refreshed when young David played his harp (1Sam.16:23), and Job felt that getting things off his chest would go a long way toward refreshing his spirit (Job 32:19-20). Beyond this, we know from the verse in 2 Timothy that it was refreshing to Paul to have someone around who was not ashamed of what others might see as a blight on his character—his “chain.” Judgmental folks are seldom greeted with anticipation. It would have been easy to see Paul as suffering for a crime instead of a cause, which tells us things are not always the way they look.

As women, we may not biblically qualify for the office of pastor, but the “ministry of refreshment” is open to all, male or female. We can bring light to a dark place, confidence to a hesitant spirit, the warmth of a smile to a frozen frown, a word of cheer to a mournful moment, and the hope of Heaven to a candidate for hell. I challenge you; step up and apply for the job. The pay may not be great, but the reward is out of this world!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anything But God

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” (Rom.1:28)

Those were his words. “Anything but God.” My biology teacher was trying to give an explanation for the origin of life on planet Earth (3.9 billion years ago, in case you were wondering). Using such words as “could have been,” “seems to have been,” “might have been if,” etc. he offered stories of a “cold little pond,” or conversely, a “hot water environment,” finally admitting that he himself rather leaned toward the idea of amino acids (building blocks of life) delivered to a young Earth on huge meteorites. Finally, having taken all I could of a lecture that should have begun with, “Once upon a time,” I looked him dead in the eye (I sit in the front row, dead center!) and said, “In other words, any wild explanation will do, as long it’s not God.” It was then that this usually calm, California laid-back, professor leaned toward me, menacingly, and hotly shot back, “Yes, anything but God. If that’s what you want me to say, I’ll say it. Anything but God!”

There we have it. That’s the rationale behind it all. For if there is a God who created the world as we know it, He must be reckoned with. He cannot be ignored. And that is so fearful and abhorrent to the unregenerate mind that anything else, no matter how implausible and unscientific, will do. So, when one explanation is shot down, another one, just as improbable, is flown.

Both Christianity and Evolution are religions based upon faith, and I have believed “In the beginning, God..” from the time I was a child. But how good God is to have given me the opportunity to see in action what Paul referred to as “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20). As children of God, we need never worry that to exercise our faith is to sacrifice our minds. We read that the young Jewish boys taken into Babylon as captives were “skilful in wisdom, cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” (Dan.1:4). You cannot reason your way to God, but coming to God for salvation is the most reasonable choice a man or woman can make.

Frankly, to see a science professor with several degrees unnerved in the presence of an “unassuming, sweetly smiling, great-grandmother,” who simply points out discrepancies from time to time, gives us some indication of the sheer bluster and attempted intimidation that is involved here. We can rest our souls and our minds on the Word of the only One who is able to supply us with the first step in the so-called “Scientific Method”— Observation.

“Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and
stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which
cometh out of it: he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and
spirit to them that walk therein.” (Isa. 42:5)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wisdom with Sweat on Its Face

“Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the LORD had commanded.”

It’s easy to get the impression that wisdom stays cloistered in a corner, meditating, and understanding is more readily heard than seen. But verses like the one above, and others like it, make it abundantly clear that God imparts wisdom not only to be shared verbally, but seen publicly. Evidences of a gift in manual labor are every bit as worthy of respect as is a gift that touches our minds and hearts. Both come from God, and neither is profitable to the Body of Christ if it not used for His glory.

We like to say that for the believer there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular, but it is easy to only associate wisdom with the parts of our lives that call for profound answers and decisions. However, those parts that deal with the routine and everyday can suddenly become profoundly consequential, and it is then that "work-a-day wisdom" is called for. It’s good to remember that the same wisdom God gave to Aaron and his sons for the service of the altar was given to Bazaleel to build it. Wisdom may come with the voice of a prophet or the pen of a ready scribe, but it can also come with a chisel in its hand and sweat on its face.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jesus Wept

“When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews; Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)

As I read this chapter in John this morning, the Lord directed my thoughts to something I had not noticed before. I could be wrong, of course, perhaps reading through eyes of sorrow; or maybe God simply knew this was what I needed to take away today from my reading of this well known text. One way or the other, my next thought was to share it with you, my readers, who share so much of my heart.

It was our Lord’s love for Lazarus that was uppermost in the minds of Mary and Martha when they sent for Jesus to come and heal him (v.3), and it was that same thought that made the Jews who came to mourn after his death remark when they saw Jesus weeping, “Behold how he loved him!” However, as you can see from the cited verses, it was not the news of Lazarus’ death that occasioned our Lord’s outpouring of emotion; it was the grief of his sisters and friends. It was when he saw their broken hearts that He “groaned in the spirit.” Surely, if it was His love for Lazarus that overrode everything else, He would have allowed him to remain in the presence of God. But He chose instead to restore him back to the arms of his loved ones. My mind was not focused on the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but rather, the sympathy and love of Jesus for His friends.

As I write these words, a precious niece of mine lies dying from a congenital illness that has plagued her for over forty years. She has suffered much during this time, and her frail body has little life left within it. Indeed, should she recover, it would be nearly as miraculous as the raising of Lazarus. She longs to be with her Lord, but has left the timing up to Him, choosing the will of God to the end. The comforting message that came to my soul today was not our Lord’s great love for Lazarus (which truly was great), but His sympathetic love for those who had to watch him die. Behold, how He loved them! As is so often the case when I read the life of Jesus, I even more amazed and moved by His humanity than even His Deity. I understand how He could raise Lazarus from the dead. After all, He is God. But that He, who exists from eternity to eternity, could limit Himself to a body that was able to be caught up in a moment of grief, is beyond my comprehension. To choose to identify with our feeble emotions, to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” is truly love beyond measure.

When I read these blessed verses today, I was able to see in my mind’s eye as God the Father gathers our Jessica into His bosom, but at the same time, I could glimpse God the Son standing beside, weeping—weeping!—with her mother and father, sisters, and other loved ones. And I read again the words of Jesus to Martha:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth
in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believeth thou this?” Yes!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Straight From the Horse's Mouth"

“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15)

You have surely played the old game, sometimes called “Gossip,” in which someone at one end of a group of people whispers something to the person next to him or her, and so forth, until the message reaches the last person. Then that individual repeats audibly what he or she heard, and invariably, everyone is amazed at how far removed it is from what was originally said. Jesus is recorded as saying in this verse in John that the Father had told Him things that He, in turn, told His disciples. We know that Jesus “heard” exactly what His Father said, and He goes on to promise that “all things” that He heard, He passed on to us. Why would we think that God would be so careful and exact when passing on His Words to us, if they were only going to become garbled or diluted later?

Of course, we know from such verses as 2 Peter 1:21 that the human authors of the Bible were simply transcribing the Words of God, and as far as what became of them after that, my question at the end of the last paragraph still stands. I say this to remind us again of a favorite theme of mine. Everything in life that is necessary to know can be found in the supernatural Book that lies inconspicuously and often overlooked on a shelf or table in our homes. All true knowledge found in any other book is simply “a variation on a theme.” God had the original thought. And by that I do not just mean the original thought on every subject; I mean the original thought. To acquire knowledge from other sources and other people is to obtain it second-hand. This may be acceptable in some cases, I suppose, but surely could not be seen as the purest form of research.

Besides, the Bible is not only a source of fact; it is a love letter from God, as well. (When was the last time you got that from a good book?) The all-knowing God of the universe is the all-loving Savior of our souls. Treasure His Book as you treasure your life, for He is your life, and He has made Himself known to us primarily through His Word.

Those who know me, will realize, I am sure, that my choice of a title for these thoughts of mine is in no way meant to be light or irreverent. I simply seek to establish what I believe to be a direct line of information from God to us. To make the point, if I may, that the Message from God that came down to us in the beginning, though it may be in a different language, is as pure today as it was when it came from the mind of God. If He cannot preserve His Word, can He reasonably be expected to keep our souls?

Friday, March 17, 2006


“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

I am more and more amazed at the way unregenerate man holds on to his illegitimate claim of dominion over this world. It begins with the notion that we are only here by chance, and ends with the assumption that no one but we have the authority to dictate our behavior. As long as we proclaim Christ from church pulpits and are content to simply encourage one another as Christians in the Faith, the world will have little reason to quarrel with us. But if you dare to suggest He has anything authoritative to say to them, be ready for a fight! As my Biology professor intones, “Religion has no place in the science classroom.” He may be right about religion, but as we can see from the verse above (and many others), God has every right to an audience in any discussion of the origin of our world, and, by extension, every right to lay down rules of conduct.

Having said that, and realizing there are many fools in this world (Psl.14:1), I am convinced that man’s only hope of “finding” God is through revelation. The honest questioner of science and nature can (and will) recognize “Intelligent Design,” but only the Spirit of God can convince a man or woman that it is God. As Romans 1:19-20 tells us, the evidences of God in Creation are inescapable, but it is only revelation of, and faith in, Jesus Christ, His Son, that gives us spiritual and intellectual access to God the Father. (“For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ” ( 2 Cor.4:6). We see a picture of this in the conversion of Paul. All the men in the group saw the light, but only Paul heard the voice of God (Acts 22:9).

So, boast, if you will, at how smart you are to have seen the Truth. But know this; without the revelation of God through His Word and the wooing of the Spirit of God in your heart, you would be as lost as a heathen in the darkest corner of the earth. I believe, with all my heart, Truth is not found; it is revealed. And I know He has revealed Himself to me. Thank God for this unspeakable gift!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Lesson in Grammar

“And they glorified God in me.” (Gal.1:24)

The King James Bible not only provides us with the Words of Life, but it is also the definitive textbook for the English language, at least to my way of thinking. It is where to go to find “the King’s language!” When I read the last verse of the first chapter of Galatians this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me a refresher course in priorities, by means of a lesson in grammar.

The subject of this six-word sentence is “they,” a pronoun referring to the churches of Judea (v.22). The verb—in this case an action verb—telling us what the churches did, is “glorified.” In the case of action verbs, the complement following them, if one is needed, will be a direct object, a word that receives the action of the verb or shows its result. We have been given three little words to pick from to fulfill that role; but we can narrow it down further because the direct object must a noun, which leaves the preposition “in” out of the running. Now we’re left with only two candidates to receive the action of the verb “glorified.” To put it simply, who is to receive the glory? God or me? Lest we find even that to be too hard a decision (and don’t act as though you haven’t wavered between the two), the before mentioned preposition “in” has already tapped “me” to be its object, thereby leaving only one Person left to receive the glory—God.

This is an important lesson, however you learn it. As a lively, if not yet master, grammarian, the Holy Spirit reminds me that as well as being the supreme Object of my affections, God should be the Direct Object of any glory that might otherwise come to me. And isn’t it humbling to realize that God would give us an opportunity to make Him look good? We cannot do this, however, as long as we’re jockeying for the position of “direct object.”

We should remember, when the verb is “glorify,” the only truly acceptable direct object is God.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Paradox = Balance

“As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:9-10).

People who chaff at the paradoxes of life are unbalanced. Perhaps I should rephrase that. To spend one’s life trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, or else choosing to ignore one of its opposite sides, is to miss the whole point. The seemingly self-contradictory statements or concepts do not negate one another; they balance each other. And to fail to recognize this is to live a life of frustration and imbalance. (Is that better?) Oh, I know, the things mentioned in the above verses can be somewhat reconciled, if we acknowledge, for instance, that it’s possible to be well-known among one segment of society (say, Christian) but unknown to society, at large. But the very act of trying to fit the infinite mind of God into the box of our reasonableness is an exercise in not only frustration, but ignorant self-exaltation.

Besides, when it comes to doctrines such as Sovereignty and Free will, or the complete Deity of Christ and His complete Manhood, choosing one idea over the other, or else insisting that the two concepts cannot coexist, leads to division in the case of former pair (Sovereignty/Free Will) and heresy in the case of the latter (All God/All Man). They are examples of paradoxes, and to lean one way or the other is to throw oneself completely off balance, spiritually. The paradoxes of Scripture are the very thing that calls forth God’s measure of a man: faith; and the very thing that makes Christianity a stumbling block to the insincere (1Pet.2:7-8).

But, what does all this have to do with me, practically speaking? I’m glad you asked. This, I think: In the same way failure to appreciate the paradoxes of Scripture leads to spiritual imbalance, failure to appreciate the paradoxes of life and people, leaves one emotionally and interpersonally off balance. For instance, Jesus said in Luke 18:19 that there is none good, except God, and yet we read of Barnabas, in the early Church, that he was “a good man” (Acts 11:24). Can you and I strike that same balance with loved ones and friends? Or must they walk a line of near perfection in order to fit our definition of “good?” The prodigal son’s father could appreciate this, but not his elder brother. The father was as patient with his repentant son as he was his self-righteous one. Many of us are guilty of seeing our own children as being without flaws, while others of us see them with little or no virtues. The truth is, they are a mixture of both and to focus on one or the other is to end up with a lop-sided relationship that never seems to be on-track. This is only one of the many contradictions of we faced with.

Life, people, and Christianity are all paradoxical. There is only one Constant in the universe: God. And the life and heart focused on Him will meet every paradox, turning neither to the right or the left (Josh.1:7), but rather, enjoying the balanced walk of faith between the two.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Not How? or Why? But Who?

“And I gave my heart to seek and search out wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” (Eccl.1:13)

Someone has said, “To the scientist, the great question is “How?” To the philosopher, it is “Why?” But I would submit that to the truly wise, the primary question is “Who?” This is because, until one decides who shall be the final authority, then all questions, whether they concern science, philosophy, or ontology (the study of “being”), have no basis for evaluation. Is my own life experience to be the yardstick? Are man’s philosophical guesses, or his revered (ritualistic) Scientific Method to be the ultimate qualifiers? Or shall I choose to consult the Giver of life for the answers to life?

As I told my highly agitated Biology teacher, who was much “exercised” that I considered a science class to be a proper venue for a discussion of Intelligent Design much less the subject of God, it’s a matter of presupposition. He presupposes a universe devoid of God, so any theory, no matter how unreasonable and perverse, must be right; while, on the other hand, I presuppose “God created the heaven and the earth,” therefore any other argument, no matter how well it seems to fit the Scientific Method (which it doesn’t) cannot possibly be right. We will argue, the two of us, over the next couple of months and trade research material on both sides of the question; but in the end, his presupposition of the superiority of man, and my presupposition of the universal principality of Jesus Christ, will be the deciding factor for both of us. And unless one is willing to acknowledge at least the reality of God, he or she is doomed to say with a frustrated Solomon, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered” (Eccl.1:15).

I will continue to study the philosophers, and I will apply myself and try to understand some of the workings and laws of God’s creation, knowing that underneath it all lies the firm foundation of “Thus saith the Lord.” We will never know all the answers to Why? or How? But to the all important question of Who? I have a ready, right, revealed answer: GOD!