Sunday, July 30, 2006

What's It All About?

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col.1:16-17)

“The Hokey-Pokey…what if that is what it’s all about?” I followed a car recently with this bit of wisdom on the bumper. It is referring, of course, to the silly little dance by that name: “You put your right hand in/You put your right hand out/You put your right hand in and you shake it all about/ You do the hokey-pokey (hands wiggled vigorously at side of head)/And you turn yourself around/And that’s what it’s all about.” From here it progresses to the left hand, right leg, left leg, etc., till you end with “your whole self.” As I say, the song is silly and the ending sentiment stupid. Perhaps there is no great harm done as long as one realizes this. But until I can dance on the ceiling like Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding, I don’t think I’ll bother!

As absurd as that bumper sticker’s question may seem, however, there are those whose hair-brained ideas are just as silly, even though they are taken more seriously. For instance, according to the existentialist, the meaning of life is whatever I choose it to be; to the hedonist, pleasure is what gives life meaning; “No, No,” says the pantheist, “Everything has equal meaning; it’s all divine, even nature.” To the nihilist, there is no meaning; while the pragmatist will assert that if it works for you, it’s got meaning. To these, and other poor fools with similar ideas, I would say, “Join the ranks of the Hokey-Pokey promoters!”

If I were in the bumper-sticker business, I would make one that said, “It’s all about Him.” That is what Colossians says. The world was created by Him, and for Him; He came before all things, and He holds everything together. Without Him, the nihilist is right: there is no meaning to life. Ah, but with Him, everything makes sense, even what cannot for a time be understood. I know why I am here and where I am going. I matter. With or without a daily planner, I am fulfilling a predetermined plan—specific, at times and general, at others—but always Divinely crafted.

The question is not, “What’s it all about?” The question is, “Who’s it all about?” And the answer is God!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sweet Meditation

“My meditation of him [God] shall be sweet…” (Psl.103:34)

I practice meditation. Before you panic, let me quickly explain that I am not talking about the mind-over-matter, mumbo-jumbo exercise practiced by over ten million American adults, if you can believe the 8/4/03 edition of Time Magazine. It can take one of several forms, but basically, it involves “sitting in silence for 10 minutes to 40 minutes a day and actively concentrating on a breath or a word or an image [training] yourself to focus on the present over the past and the future, transcending reality by fully accepting it” (p.51). Supposedly, it is a way of feeling ‘“at one’ with the universe” (p.52). Why anyone would feel a need to bond with Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, when there are some days when you can’t even see eye-to-eye with your own husband or wife, is way beyond me! On the contrary, what I am talking about is something that has the ability to calm the heart and mind (without a state of semi-consciousness), while at the same time providing thoughts of substance, rather than mindless word repetition.

I am talking about meditation “with understanding” (Psl.49:3), that is “acceptable” to God (Psl.19:14). The vast majority of our meditation should come within the framework of the Word of God, or the Law, as we are told in Psalm 119. All through this chapter we are encouraged to meditate in God’s laws and His precepts. I am not saying that we must only think about spiritual things, for a great many activities in life require our full concentration. But concentration and meditation are two different things. Activities or studies that require precision call for concentration. However, what I am saying is that meditation should be reserved for the higher themes in life, as enumerated by Paul in Philippians 4:8.

Meditation is not study. Study is a means of finding truth, while meditation expands and pins down truth, making it workable in our own lives. As children of God, studying the Word will give us a greater knowledge of Him; meditation will make Him a reality in our lives. It takes truth, and stamps it into our minds and hearts.

When is the best time for meditation? One would almost have to say the morning, though we are told in Genesis 34:63 that Isaac preferred a field “at eventide.” Perhaps this was the quietest time for him, which seems to be of greater consideration even than the time of day. Most of us are incapable of deep thought in the midst of noise and distraction. Still, it was in the morning that David chose to “look up,” (Psl.4:3), and it was “a great while before day” when Jesus was said to have “departed into a solitary place” to commune with the Father (Mk.1:35). The idea of giving God the first hours of the day was one that was highly regarded among the old Puritan preachers and writers. It was Thomas Watson who wrote:

God deserves the first of our thoughts; some of His first thoughts were upon us; we had a being in His thoughts before we had a being: He thought upon us “before the foundations of the world.” Before we fell He was thinking of how to raise us. We had the morning of His thoughts. We have taken up His thoughts from eternity: if we have had some of God’s first thoughts, well may He have our first thoughts.

As to how much time we should spend in meditation, I would suggest that we should not quit until we are conscious of the presence of God, and have made something from the Bible applicable to us. That is why reading the Bible is the most logical prelude to meditation. It is a time to take a general truth and make it specific. We have always assumed that the admonition to hide God’s Word in our heart (Psl.119:11) was a command to memorize, but I have seen too many “Bible-quoters” who failed miserably as “Bible-livers.” To learn something “by heart” doesn’t mean you have taken it to heart. That will take meditation. But I warn you; one of the by-products of meditation is conviction of true sin. One reason we are dependent on someone else to identify sin for us is that we have lost the art of meditation.

There are those who have been described as “great thinkers.” But there are no greater thoughts than God’s; so the only truly great thinkers are those who think after Him. You and I can be among them. But in order to qualify, we will have to practice meditation…sweet meditation of Him.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Cure for Boredom

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Eccl.3:11)

According to the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I have two things to say about that: One, I am not a cat; and two, they also say cats have nine lives. I happen to be of the school of thought that says curiosity is a precious gift from God that (like all His gifts) should be sanctified…then milked for all it’s worth! And, as I have indicated, I think it is the cure for boredom; because boredom is not a matter of where you are, or even necessarily who you are with, but rather, how free your mind is. Walls are good things; they keep in the wanted and keep out the unwanted. And this is also true of the walls of our minds. But in the case of mature men and women, it is important that God be the “Master Mason,” the chief wall-builder. Walls are too durable to be put up indiscriminately. We all know individuals whose minds seem to be “set in cement.” They are the most boring people we know.

Our curiosity should find its prime fixation on the things of the Lord. That is one of the joys of sitting under a good pastor who provokes you to think. Profundity is inspiring, but provocation is more lasting. He need not be eloquent if he pushes my mind in gear. And this is only the beginning. My husband speaks of Moses’ turning aside to contemplate the burning bush in the desert as a indicating a “holy curiosity.” He could have walked on, from either fear of the unknown or reluctance to consider something different, but he chose instead to take the risk. And what a difference it made in his life! For here He met God in a way he never had before.

I have come to understand the intimidation that superior education can have on those who have less, in most cases, unjustified. In the same way, those of us who have not had a formal Bible education can allow ourselves to be spoon fed and church coddled, so that we fail to take advantage of the live-in Tutor we have and the open Textbook we possess. After all, there is home-schooling, you know! Along with our Bibles, there should be writings of men and women from various spectrums of the Faith. From here, our own thoughts can form, the Holy Spirit can speak, and “…thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, Here is the way, walk ye in it…” (Isa.30:21)

But if you believe God is Lord of all, then your curiosity should not end there. It should extend to His creation. There is so much to see, so much to learn, and so much contemplate. We cannot always go everywhere, but with modern technology, and the printed page, we can explore with our minds. As you know, there are those who actually are there, what they see never goes beyond their eyes to their deliberate thinking. Curiosity is nothing more than undivided attention, the desire to see all aspects. It takes the focus off what I have seen or thought thus far and, if it is sanctified, raises it to God in other places and in other people.

The verse in Ecclesiastes tells me that God has placed within every man and woman a curiosity about His world so that they might come to realize it is beyond human understanding. That curiosity should be even keener when one comes to know the Creator personally. It was said of C.S. Lewis that his was a mind that was alive; and unless it is physically impaired, ours should be, too. If we are bored, it is because we have let our curiosity become rusty. Wake it up; oil it up; and put it in gear…God has lots more to show you!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sudden Fear

“Be not afraid of sudden fear…” (Prov.3:25)

There is a fear that is not occasioned by an obviously fearful phenomenon or event, but by the fact that it comes suddenly, without cause. It is not something that can be reasoned away, for it lacks all reason. It would be like arguing with a ghost or boxing with a shadow. Solomon called it “sudden fear.” We often refer to it as a panic attack; and the medical world, that must have its own terminology, calls it, General Anxiety Disorder. But if you are one of its 2.4 million suffers, you probably think a more accurate term would be “hell.”

It is interesting that it is seen twice as often in women than men. I attach no significance to this, except to say that it is probably something you and I should talk about. I have friends and family who have been plagued at one time or another by it, with differing symptoms. There are various theories as to its origins, but nothing definite, so that they are unable to do much more than treat the symptoms, usually with drugs that sometimes only add new ones. The word “panic” literally means “fear caused by the god Pan,” the Greek god of forests, flocks, and shepherds, having the horns and hoofs of a goat, and believed to be able to cause a feeling of sudden fear in humans whenever he wished.” (Reader’s Digest Family Word Reader.) From a writing of 1603, comes this succinct explanation: “Sudden foolish frights, without any certeine cause, which they call Panique Terrores.” We can be sure, then, that this is not a new malady, and perhaps even more comforting to those who suffer with it, not an imaginary one. This should be remembered by those of us who have not experienced it.

Solomon encourages those plagued by these phantom horrors to acknowledge that, in this case, it is not what we fear that hurts us, but rather, the fear itself. He gives no formula or ritual to dispel the demons, but offers a reason why it is an unnecessary fear: “For the Lord shall be thy confidence…” (v.26). To put confidence anywhere else is to apply a band-aid on a gaping wound; it will not hold for long. The words are not given as a panacea; they are simply a fact. They are not some kind of mantra to chant, but a truth for faith to lay hold on. I sounds simple, I know, but I am also aware that the laying-hold-of may seem just out of reach to many. Here I defer to the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do: change what is real into reality.

I offer these few words to those of you who I know live with these fears and anxieties, as well as others of you I am not aware of. I offer them not from a scientific mind but from a sympathetic heart. God says to us, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer.31:3); and the New Testament tells us, “There is no fear in love” (1Jno.4:18). May these words light up the dark corners in your life today.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Miss Piggy with a Nose Ring

“And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34)

Discretion is a sure sign of spiritual discernment—particularly when it is seen in our speech. I know our Lord was impressed by it. One has only to read this verse in Mark to see that. In this chapter, where we read of yet another incident of incessant questioning of Jesus by religious leaders, one lone scribe in the group speaks with such discretion that it garners this unique approval from our Lord.

The Bible has much to say about discretion. It was one of several qualities Paul said mothers should instill within their daughters, or any other young women they might be in a position to influence (Tit.2:3-5). As you might expect, you will find numerous references to it in the Book of Wisdom. One such proverb would be comical if it were not so sadly true. “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Prov.11:22). This is where my somewhat satirical title came from. After all, what could be any more absurd than the pretense of elegance on a creature with barnyard manners? And to encounter a woman with all the trappings of a lady, yet lacking discipline of speech, is just as jarring. It makes one want to say, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

The Oxford English Dictionary provides us with a thorough definition of the adjective, discreet: “Showing discernment or judgment in the guidance of one’s own speech and actions; judicious, prudent, circumspect, cautious; often esp. that can be silent when speech would be inconvenient.” And that latter is exactly what discretion has always meant to me—it is seen not so much in what you say as it is in what you refrain from saying. The ability to separate the shareable with the non-shareable, as it were. In fact, that is exactly what the Latin root word means: “to know enough to keep separate.”

There was a time when the ability to be friendly and open, without telling all about oneself, was common enough. Now it seems to be almost a lost art. In a day when someone can become an “intimate” (literally!) in a few hours, anyone who practices discretion is often labeled stand-offish, perhaps even secretive. Things once considered sacrosanct have been relegated to the category of friendly give-and-take in conversation—everything from personal income to marital intimacy.

Beyond that, I would also like to think there are things about me that only God knows, not just because He is omniscient, but because I tell Him. Who better to go to when I feel the need to get something off my chest? Truthfully, should I feel better after talking things over with a friend than I do after I have laid them out before my Heavenly Father? Perhaps if we were more intimate with Him, we would feel less need to bare our souls to those around us.

As mothers, we should impress upon our daughters the pleasing grace of discretion, remembering at the same time that it is a virtue that must be nurtured all our lives. We will always be tempted to appear more accessible or try to bolster friendships by telling confidential things about ourselves (or others). But if we are wise, we will resist that temptation. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit of God to convict and teach us: “For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him (Isa.28:26).

Remember; if you fail to heed the warning, you just might end up looking like “You-know-who!”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Time to Speak and a Time to Keep Quiet

“And he [Jesus] straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Mark 1:43-44)

“You can’t take the Gospel to the wrong door.” This was one of many clichés often used to rally the troops during the so-called “big church age.” It was one aphorism that could labeled as “good preachin’ but poor doctrine.” The above text is one of many that disproves it. Jesus had just instantaneously healed a leper of his disease, but instead of sending him out to spread the news of this miraculous cleansing, He instructed him to keep it to himself, and instead, go back to the temple and subject himself to the ritual to determine cleansing that Moses had laid down in Leviticus. Was that necessary for his cleansing? No, he was already healed; but it was necessary for his obedience. Jesus knew that, in this case, advertisement was not called for and would actually hamper His ministry (which it did). He also knew that the ritual, though it would not affect the actual cleansing one way or the other, would, however, give witness to the temple priests, and therefore verification to the public at large, of his miraculous healing.

But this man, perhaps in good faith, thinking he was showing proper gratitude, did just the opposite and “began to publish…and blaze abroad the matter,” with the result being that Jesus had to leave town. Good intentions are never an excuse for disobedience. Gratitude and love are shown by obedience, not declaration, unless we have been specifically instructed to do so (Mk.5:19).

At one point in his ministry, Paul the Apostle had hoped to go to Asia to take the message of Jesus Christ to the people there, but the Scripture tells us he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go (Acts 16:6). Not because the Asians were never to hear the Gospel, but because it was not God’s will for them to hear it from Paul at that time (Acts 19:10). Had he gone, he would have taken the Gospel to the “wrong door.”

We are called to be witnesses (Acts 1:8), but not at our own discretion. Any farmer knows seed is more productive in prepared ground, and without Holy Spirit preparation in the hearts of the hearers, our testimony is more apt to fall on deaf ears. If you have done much witnessing for the Lord you know this to be true. There are times when our testimony can sound pharisaical and full of bluster; but the same testimony, given at other times, under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit, can permeate the very air with power and lasting significance. I hope you are getting the idea that a vital, ongoing and intimate relationship with the Spirit of God is the key to relevance in witnessing for God. It has nothing to do with courage or boldness, but everything to do with ownership and obedience.

The wise man tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (3:7). If that is true with temporal matters, how much more must it be of eternal ones? Another zealous believer or a well-meaning preacher may shame you into talking to everyone you meet about the Lord, but the Spirit of God will direct you to those He has selected for you personally to share the news of salvation or the things of the Lord with. It is up to you to choose whose orders you will follow.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wise Investing

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth: and there is that witholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” (Prov.11:24)

Helen Keller said,“I will not just live my life. I will not just spend my life. I will invest my life.” There is a vast difference between the three. Some simply live their lives as consumers, taking whatever comes their way. Others are willing to put forth—spend—in an effort to better their circumstances. Then, thank God, there are those who are wise enough invest in something and someone outside themselves.

To invest is to devote, allot, set aside, endow, supply, or enable. The “vest” portion tells us that the root word indicates the idea of literally clothing another with money or power, etc. We are taking something of ours and giving it to another person or entity, so that individual or group of individuals can do what could not be done otherwise. It is an enablement.

Three principles come to mind immediately as being a part of the practice of investment. First: One must decide whether or not the investment is worth the risk, because that is the second principle: There will always be a risk involved. Investment of any kind is “betting” on the future, in which there is always some degree of uncertainty. Third: We must be willing to wait for the dividends. And things can look pretty shaky for awhile.

What are you investing in? What am I? Or are we investing in anything, or, more importantly, anyone, at all? That is the main emphasis of my thoughts to you today—people. Are we investing in others or ourselves? If I invest in me, everything fizzles when I am gone. But if I am spending more time and effort on being a force for good in the lives of others than I am enhancing my own image and prestige, I just might generate a windfall when I am gone!

Personally, I have always felt that as a wife and mother, the wisest investment I ever made was in the lives of my husband, children, and grandchildren. And the dividends just keep rolling in. Oh, I know mine was not the only investment made in their lives, but I still claim to be a major shareholder! Solomon says in Proverbs that withholding what should be invested leads to poverty; while on the other hand, scattering it will bring increase. If that be true of money, it is doubly true of a life. For that reason, I will die a rich woman, even if I am buried in a pine box.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Two Words For Women

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
(1 Tim. 2:9-10)

These two words—modest and shamefacedness—are found only once in the Bible and both in the same verse. What’s that about? I suppose the first thing it says is that this one has our name on it, girls, “big, plain, and straight,” as Pastor Adrian Rogers used to say. The particulars may vary (you may not wear gold, pearls, or braided hair) but the principle will translate into any culture, lifestyle, or situation. From my own study and meditation on these two words, I have come to the conclusion that the first one is often oversimplified, while the other is sometimes overlooked.

In any exposition I have heard on the phrase “modest appare,” it more or less boiled down to condemnation of three things: clothing that was either too tight, too low, or too short; or worse yet, a combination of two or more of them. End of story. That may make for good preaching, but it certainly will not settle anything, because words like “short, low, and tight” can mean different things to different people from region to region, church to church, family to family, and even family member to family member. I have my own idea of what those three adjectives refer to, and, frankly, it is hard for me to imagine anything else. But as much as I may set stock on my own powers of Bible interpretation (!), I am still forced to admit fallibility. Besides, when I read this verse, I do not see anything about the cut of the apparel, only the cost. (Read it again.) So what can we safely say then about this word, “modest,” the oversimplified one?

You and I tend to think of it as almost an antonym for words like “sensual,” or even “uncovered.” That is what it has come to mean to many of us, and that may be a reasonable application; but as I have said, you will not find an unvarying standard here to attach to it. So, let’s see if we can lock in a more “defining definition.” Strong’s Concordance gives as the meaning of the word modest: “well arranged, seemly (proper), orderly, decorous, having good behavior.” Webster adds to this: “not vain or boastful, not extreme, unpretentious.” Now if you will permit me, I will add some of my own observations, by taking the word apart and seeing how its root is used elsewhere. “Mode” is a way of doing things, and a “moderate” person is one who is measured in the way they do them. If one lives on a modest income (which we do!) there is little room for extravagance. When we realize that in this verse, “modest apparel” is contrasted to “costly array,” then we begin to understand what Paul is trying to tell us, as women of God. According to him, the way we dress is a picture of our priorities. It tells what is more important to us—“outward adorning” or “the hidden man of the heart” (1Pet.3:3-4).

Now we turn to the overlooked (and overlong!) word, “shamefacedness.” If you suspect it has something to do with bashfulness or being shy, you are on the right track. Strong’s Concordance elaborates on this somewhat by saying it is, “bashfulness toward men and awe or reverence toward God.” I like that. In fact, I want that. I would rather be shamefaced now than “ashamed before him at his coming” (1Jno.2:28). This is a rare virtue today. Instead of shamefaced, today it is “in your face.” Today’s woman of the world can “give as good as she gets,” and that’s all she gets. She has traded the blush of purity for the face of experience. A poor bargain, indeed.

Two words especially for women—modesty and shamefacedness. We must face them, contemplate them, and, hopefully, embody them. It does not take a “wonder-woman,” just one who is not ashamed to be a woman of the Word. Will you take the challenge?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Introspection: Internal Nit-Picking

“… I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself…” (1Cor. 4:3b-4a)

According to the Greek mathematician, Euclid of Alexandria (325-265 B.C.), the whole of anything is only equal to the sum of its parts. Whatever this may say about mathematics in general, and geometry in particular, the sum of Me is not 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen, and 7% other (other what?). As a matter of fact, the sum of Me is far greater than all the many parts of me—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.—could ever add up to; and trying to examine myself, piece by piece, will never reveal who I really am. This brings me to my particular thesis today: The inclination to introspection is merely a morbid exercise in internal nit-picking.

By nit-picking I mean finding flaws and inconsistencies without offering any helpful suggestions to remedy the situation. And that is how most, if not all, of our self-analysis is conducted. We pick some sin or failing from our past and carefully lift the scab (left over from the last time), supposedly, to try to find the source of the original infection; when all the time, leaving the thing alone would speed healing, which is what we are after, right? Or is it? Maybe introspection is a substitute for moving ahead. Examining my motives, appearance, and performance, on a day to day basis, leaves little time for progress in the Christian life. This is no doubt why Paul not only refused to focus on other’s judgment of him, but even refrained from indulging in it himself. He was wise enough to know that he would get it wrong anyway (“I know nothing by myself”). He knew it for what it was—a weight that he must lay aside in order to run the race for God (Heb.12:1).

Self-analysis has its place, of course, especially prior to partaking of the Lord’s Table (1 Cor.11); but this involves knowable sins that invite chastisement. Oddly enough, however, it is not usually these that bother the reflective nit-picker nearly as much as unknowable and incurable symptoms. These folks would rather scrutinize their temperaments than submit to the Testaments (the Old and New, that is)! Why we did wrong is not nearly as important and not doing it again. It may be nice to know the former, but it doesn’t always mean the latter will follow.

In the final analysis (much better than self-analysis), we should be wielding a telescope, not a stethoscope. “Looking unto Jesus,” as the writer of Hebrews says (12:2), and leaving all the introspection to the Blessed Holy Spirit. He is no nit-picker; He never points out a flaw or failure without also providing a remedy.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006


“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col.2:3)

They are like noses; we all have them. Presuppositions, I mean. But some (again, like noses) are easier to spot than others. The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as being “suppositions antecedent to [preceding] knowledge.” For a more enlightening and, for our purposes, more precise, definition, however, I offer my older son’s:

What are presuppositions? They are beliefs that stand behind all that we know. Presuppositions are beliefs that can’t be “proved” in that sense that “proof” is used today. But they are beliefs in terms of which we judge other beliefs; they are our final authority. They contest all things, but they themselves are incontestable…The thing that you never question, back of everything else, is your actual presupposition. [1]

It should be obvious to any thinking person that we all come equipped with presuppositions, but I had a Biology teacher insist that he came to his acceptance of evolution completely unbiased—with no preconceived ideas. Yet, after he had given numerous suggestions as to the origin of life, and I suggested God, he insisted, vehemently and illogically, “Anything but God!” If this is not a bias, I don’t know what is.

Actually, I think this goes beyond bias to presupposition. And I think there is a difference. By this I mean a bias is a seed thought that, because of external pressure, leans in one direction as it grows. This can sometimes be remedied with time. A presupposition, on the other hand, is the ground in which the seed has been planted, and, in this case, a transplant is the only remedy. Not just a change of mind, but a whole new mind, is required.

Speaking of the unregenerate man, David says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psl. 10:4). God is never one of his multiple choice answers to any of the questions of life. I am not saying that a lost man or woman is unintelligent or incapable of understanding the workings of God’s creation, or even His ethical standards. I am only saying that “through the pride of [their] countenance,” they assume that their own reasoning or experience was the source of this knowledge. This is their presupposition (or should I say “pre-superstition”).

For the child of God, however, Paul’s affirmation in Colossians 2:2-3 is the basis for everything that can or will be known. The mind of God, Divinely incarnate in His Son, and Divinely inspired within His Word, is the fountain head of all knowledge. This is our presupposition. And, I repeat, to go from theirs to ours requires more than just a change of mind. Apologetics may serve to change someone’s mind, and that is a good thing. But it is not enough. A change of presupposition is required, and that takes regeneration—God’s mind in place of ours.

When you thank God today for the new heart and the new life He gave you (You will, won’t you?), don’t forget to thank Him for your new mind, as well. Don’t ever take it for granted, because…you only presuppose God because He presupposed you.

[1] Sandlin, Andrew: from an explanation and critique of the philosopher, David Hume.

Monday, July 3, 2006

I'm Free!

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin…But if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34,36)

Our pastor gave a wonderful, personal illustration of how something that may look like freedom can, in reality, be just the opposite. He grew up on a farm in N. Dakota with several brothers who evidently were just as mischievous as he. One morning—a cold, below-zero, typical N. Dakota morning—he and his brothers were waiting for the school bus, and, for some reason only another young boy could explain, he decided he wanted to taste the snow on a nearby fence. After all, his parents were not around to step in and spoil his fun. So, he did it; and, as he explained, it wasn’t nearly as liberating as he thought it would be! In fact, he couldn’t get loose. And when he finally did get up the nerve to pull his tongue away from the frozen fence railing, he left part of said tongue behind. Needless to say, there was a lot of pain involved, too.

Sin presents the same invitation of freedom and with the same unpleasant results. “I’m my own boss”; It’s nobody’s business what I do”; “It only effects me.” That is not true when sin is involved. In that case, the devil is the boss, and we are his servants. When we are saved and our “business” defies our Father’s commandments, it’s His business; and, if we’re truly His, He’ll tend to it. And anyone who says sin is an individual sport is either naïve or, what is more likely, ensnared; and all the bluster is just to hide the desperation. But, one way or another, none of us lives to himself, says Paul (Rom.14:7); and that is especially true of sin.

The prodigal son provides another picture of a freedom seeker, and if a hog pen is your idea of free-wheeling, personally, I can’t get too excited about it. I have always found that doing the wrong thing did not take all that much expertise on my part; it’s standing true to God in the company of philosophical Bible rejecters, marching in lock-step with one other, that takes every bit of Spiritual gumption I can muster.

On this day when we celebrate our freedom as a nation, we should not forget to thank God for the freedom we have through His Son. He has made us free indeed and free “in deed.” We are free to do what is right without the ball and chain of an indomitable sin nature. It may be there, and I may cater to it from time to time, but it will never be because I do not have the power to do otherwise. Because, you see, I’m free. I’m free!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

What Does God Like About Me?

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isa.64:6)

When our children were all at home, and one of us had a birthday, when we were all gathered around the birthday table, my husband would always say, “Let’s each one tell what we like or appreciate the most about ______.” Then we would go around the table pointing out little traits or characteristics about the designated one that stood out to us personally. But what if we had been able to look to Heaven and ask God what He liked most about him or her? Strangely enough, it would probably not have been anything the rest of us had mentioned, because, as I often say, God doesn’t see things the way we do; in fact, those things we do that make us look good to people, that render us “highly esteemed among men,” can, in fact, look just the opposite to God (Luke 16:15).

Evidently, from the verse we can assume that not all “righteousnesses” are the same. (I know some may not like that “archaic” word, but I love saying it!) One would think any righteousness would be good; but not so. The clue is found in the little pronoun that comes before it: “our righteousnesses.” Those wonderful, innate qualities that make some of us stand out among our peers and that endear us to the hearts of others. And they are great, as long as we realize we only impress one another. If God takes notice at all, it makes no impression upon Him whatsoever; and if we are doing it with that in mind, it actually amounts to an abomination in His sight.

That brings me to my original question. Is there anything about me that God likes? Yes, I’m happy to report, there are certain aspects of my character that will turn the head of God every time. They are those things that most nearly replicate His own Son, Jesus Christ. The One of whom He said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matt.3:17); and Who could justifiably boast, “I do always those things that please him [the Father]” (Jno.8:29). “But I can’t be as good as Him!” I hear you saying. Right; which is just as well, since the only righteousness God will accept from us is the imputed kind. The kind we receive as a by-product of our redemption from sin by the sacrifice of Christ. But I would submit that when we consent for that Divine righteousness to manifest itself externally—Supernaturally—God is pleased. No, we are not sinless, as He was; but we can sin less. And according to our Lord, it is possible for our good works (our “righteousnesses,” if you will) to glorify God and not just impress our friends. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt.5:16).

God likes most about me what is most like Him; and growing in grace has taught me, that’s what I like most about me, too!