Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spiritual ADD

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind…” (1 Peter 1:13)

“Attention Deficit Disorder” (ADD) is the inability to sustain attention for long enough to be effective in any endeavor. Some of the symptoms are: “failing to give close attention to details or making careless mistakes”; “seemingly unhearing when spoken to directly”; “showing inability to follow through on instructions”; “forgetful of daily activities”; and easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.” Hmm…any of these ring a bell?

Spiritually speaking, do you ever suddenly realize you’re making “careless mistakes,” or, rather, careless sins? Are you ever “forgetful of daily activities” such as personal devotions with the Lord? Are you “easily distracted” by the questionable things of this world”; or is it hard for you to “follow through on instructions” the Holy Spirit might give you? In other words, when you’re “spoken to directly” by God, are you mentally unavailable? If so, you may be suffering from a bad case of “Spiritual ADD.”

The sad thing is, as long you are languishing from this “ailment,” you are forfeiting at least two important benefits. First, you forfeit fellowship with the Father. It is possible to be in attendance at church without being attentive to God. In every service where the Word of God is preached, there are those who only hear the sermon, while others actually get the message. As the writer of Hebrews points out, some people are just plain “dull of hearing.” In other words, they’re not paying attention.

Granted, sometimes we don’t hear from God because of sin in our lives; but at other times, it’s only because we are not listening. Tell me, how long would you bother talking to someone whose attention was a million miles away? John tells us that as believers, we may have fellowship “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). But not if we aren’t paying attention.

Second, you forfeit freedom from frustration. One has only to read Isaiah 26:3 to verify this: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” It’s easy to spot the Christians whose attention is fixed on their problems rather than the “God of peace.” There is a frenzy about their lives that fails to mirror the God-consciousness they received when they were born again. (I speak from experience here.)

I often think the most non-appropriated spiritual blessing by believers is this very thing—peace. And more often than not, it’s a case of Spiritual ADD. When Peter’s attention was drawn away from Jesus by the waves around him, he sank. And when our attention is spirited away from Him by circumstances around us, we too, are sunk. Before anything (or any one) can capture your heart or mind, it (or they) must first get your attention. Nothing can rob you of your peace, if you ignore it, and give all your attention to “the God of peace.”

David said of the wicked man, in Psalm 10:4, “God is not in all his thoughts.” This is understandable for a lost man or woman who have never known the joy of sins forgiven and fellowship with the Father. They don’t know what they’re missing. But for those of us who have taken the cup of salvation and tasted the goodness of God, to find our attention riveted for any length of time on anything (or any one) other than the lovely Son of God, is to give evidence of an unhealthy Spiritual life. In short, we’re suffering from Spiritual ADD. And you can be sure, God will not settle for anything less than our undivided attention.

Some people say God speaks to those who are busy; but I would say, God speaks to those who are listening.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great and Small Services

“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (John 13:3-5)

As a woman, I wish to point out that this is not the first instance of foot washing in the Bible. The most significant, surely, but not the first; for you will remember, I’m sure, the woman in Luke seven who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Her service was misunderstood, too, just as Jesus’ was on this occasion.

This kind of humble service, as exemplified in these two instances, is seldom seen today. In Jesus’ case, it was truly profound when one takes into consideration the majesty of the Servant. No doubt, this is why John was instructed to write that Jesus did not hesitate to perform this lowly task because knew exactly who He was, and why He was here. He was God when He raised the dead; and He was God when he stooped to wash dirty feet.

Sad to say, you and I are often too guarding of our own status to stoop to this type of ministry. But I think it was Andrew Murray who pointed out, “The lowliness of a work never lowers the person. The person honors and elevates the work, even to the most meager of services.” We would much rather have our deeds pointed out, praised, or put on a plaque. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet behind closed doors.

Jesus finished this lesson in humility by saying, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (v. 17). It isn’t good enough to know theoretically the blessedness of unassuming, unnoticed, even unpleasant, service to others. You must actually do them in order to reap the happiness they offer. And, yes, “happy” is exactly the right word. Those Christians who serve God and others from a heart of love, whether anyone sees them or not, are the happiest people I know.

Great services reveal our possibilities; small services reveal our character.     — unknown

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Everlasting Portion

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup.” (Psalm 16:5)  “…men of the world…have their portion in this life…” (Psalm 17:14)

God, in His mercy and grace, has chosen to portion out a part of Himself to those among His creation who will one day live with Him. To the rest, says the Psalmist, is given only whatever can be gained from this life. This is why, to the lost man or woman, this life is everything. Why all their decisions are made from the standpoint of making it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

The Christian is not unmindful of the world, nor unappreciative of it; but we are not intimidated by it. This may be God’s world, but He is our world. Otherwise, one would be tempted to worship the Creation more than the Creator.

As the songwriter has so aptly put it, “Thou, my everlasting portion; more than friend or life to me…” The prodigal son asked of his father, “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” And I am able to say that the portion that has fallen to me from my Heavenly Father is an everlasting portion. It encompasses all of this life, reaches through all eternity, and will not end until God does. This is my portion…and my testimony is this: It is more than enough!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"May I Ask Who's Calling, Please?"

“And when she [Martha] had so said, she went her way, and called her sister [Mary] secretly, saying, The Master is come and calleth for thee.” (John 11:28)

Call it nitpicking, if you will, but for the life of me, I can’t see anywhere in this passage where Jesus actually called for Mary. And, as a matter of fact, when she did finally go to Him, I don’t find Him saying anything to her personally. As you recall, it was Martha who dashed out the door when she heard that Jesus was coming, while it was Mary who “sat still in the house” (v. 20). Martha did indeed have a conversation with the Lord, as recorded in verses twenty-one through twenty-seven; but, as I say, I can’t find within them anything that would have occasioned her conspiratorial (“secretly”) message to her sister. Of course, Jesus could have sent Martha with the summons, and the Holy Spirit just did not inspire John to record it; but to simply assume that He did takes a lot for granted, it would seem to me.

But if Jesus didn’t really send for Mary, why would Martha say He did? I honestly don’t see malice of any kind in her actions, any more than I see it in those among us today who feel constrained to hand deliver, as it were, a call from God to the rest of us. They take for granted, it would seem, that the motivation that fires them is (or should be) present in you and me and should manifest itself in the same way. To do otherwise would indicate a lack of dedication to God. But wait; where was Martha when her sister Mary was anointing the Lord with ointment and washing His feet with her hair (v.2)? Why didn’t she rush out to do that? Do you see what I mean?

The truth is, it is possible for other people to sweep us up in their own enthusiasm to the point that God’s will for our own lives gets drowned out by all the excitement. Don’t forget, God seldom speaks in whirlwinds; so we’d better have our spiritual earphones on, listening for His “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19). And you can mark this down—bold, plain and clear: When the Master wants you…He’ll call for you!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Salvation: A Different Disposition

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This verse can be, and has been, taken to mean different things to different people. It is easy to go beyond what it actually says to what it can be made to say, especially if one has a personal aversion to something questionable. The one thing we do know from this verse, however, is that there is a difference between a man or woman who is a Christian (“in Christ”) and one who is not. The Calvinist will say the difference was always there, and will inevitably manifest itself; while someone who leans more toward the Arminian persuasion will see it as a transformation after a conversion experience. One way or the other, there is a difference.

My husband likes to refer to it as a difference in disposition; and I agree with him. Especially when one considers the primary meaning of the word: a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character, essential attributes that characterize him or her. In other words, it’s just the way they are. In any given situation, they are predisposed to act, or react, in a certain way. There may be exceptions in their experience, but that’s exactly what they will be: exceptions. Christians are disposed, or inclined, to act or respond in a particular way that does not characterize a non-Christian.

Obviously, the two groups have many things in common. They both eat, sleep, work, play, laugh, cry, love, and in most cases, marry. These, and a host of other activities, exemplify the lives of both Christians and those who do not name the name of Christ. The difference is, in the case of a Believer, the God of the Bible governs every part of his or her life. His precepts and interests are the overriding consideration in every decision; and their place in His plan is the driving motivation of their lives. When He is pleased, they are pleased; and when He is displeased, they are displeased. His definition of sin is their definition of sin.

When one takes into consideration Bible examples and Church history, it is safe to say that generally speaking, a Christian will be disposed to:

1. receive the Bible as the very Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13)

2. acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God and not be ashamed of Him (Acts 4)

3. love and seek the fellowship of other Christians (Acts 2:42 & John 13:35)

4. be a witness to the Gospel (1 Cor. 15: 1-4 & Acts 1:8)

5. recognize the innate sinfulness of man and the wickedness of this world’s system (Rom. 3:10-18 & 1 Jno.5:19)

6. maintain good works, not out of pity, but piety (Titus 3:14 & Jms. 2:15-18)

Finally, I would argue that Christians are disposed to anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Philip. 3:20). They are not so entrenched in the affairs of this world, or their own lives, for that matter, that they cannot say with the apostle, John, at any given time, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Their first commitment is to the King, not His kingdom, as important as that is. Above all else, those who are “in Christ,” are in love with Him; and it shows.

So the question to each of us is, “What does your disposition say about you?”

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Question of Loyalty

“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase.  (1 Corinthians 3:6)

In his helpful and inspiring book, Knowing Christ, Alister McGrath enumerates what he considers to be the main barriers to this. One of them is being unwilling to grow, mainly because one is unwilling to change, which is the obvious result of growth.

Faith is like a seed, according to Scriptures such as Mark 4:31-32, planted and nurtured to full growth. This process does not always, or even usually, involve only one person, as the verse in 1 Corinthians indicates. And, in any case, the determining factor is the activity of God. Unfortunately, some develop an attachment to the one who evangelizes them (planting), not allowing an “Apollos” to do any discipling (watering), lest they seem ungrateful to the one who brought them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Then, we must never allow the work of either of them to overshadow the personal dealings of God in our lives. Either of these is destined to stunt our Spiritual growth by making us suspicious of any change.

Just how far should loyalty go? Only as far as the Word of God and illumination by the Spirit of God allow. The one who points us to Jesus Christ, and those God uses to nurture and mentor us in the Faith should always be held in the highest regard; but it dishonors both them and God if we set them on pedestals, as McGrath says, making “plaster saints” of them. Our faith is sure to be stunted when there is an “inappropriate continuing influence of voices from the past,” he contends. We will never know Christ as we could as long as we refuse to grow; and we will never grow as long as we are unwilling to change. And we will never change as long as we have misplaced loyalties.

“There is a middle way here,” McGrath suggests, “which is open to the judgments of others, yet ultimately accountable only to Christ.”

There is a chain of command in the local church and the home; but there is no chain of command in the Body of Believers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No Man or The Man

“The impotent man answered him, Sir I have no man when the water is troubled to put me into the pool…Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” (John 5:7-8)

Friends are wonderful. Especially when we have a need or a problem. Scriptures that say such things as “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” and “Helping together in prayer” show that God meant for us as believers to take care of one another to the best of our abilities.

I think of the fortunate man in Mark two, with four friends who were willing to be inconvenienced and do the unconventional, in order to help him get to Jesus for healing. When was the last time a friend of yours let you down through the roof of a house on a stretcher? J But, sad to say, this man in John five was not so fortunate. There were no friends around to help him. On the contrary, he was shoved aside so that others could get into the pool of Bethesda first, in hopes of securing the healing powers of the angel that stirred its waters from time to time. But, thank God, when there was no man to help him, there was still healing from the Healer himself: the Man, Christ Jesus!

I am grateful for family and friends who encourage me, pray for me, and stand by me through the trials of this life. There have been times when words of comfort and mingling of tears meant the difference between despair and hope. But it has been a singular blessing to find that when there was no one to bear me up, the Savior Himself was there to say, “Rise…and walk.”

Cherish your friends; and better still, be a friend. Be one  who is willing to go to limitless ends to help bring healing of heart and mind to a brother or sister in need. Accept the help of those God has given to ease your burden and help you overcome sin. But know this: when there is “no man”—or no woman—who will, or even can, provide the support you need, God can…and He will.

When there is “no man,” look to The Man!

Monday, July 6, 2009

High Calling Indeed

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

While refusing to succumb to the allure of the “self-esteem” trap, we should not, however, lose sight of what it really is that gives you and I as believers our distinct claim to fame: “The high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It has nothing to do with lineage, looks, wealth, or even character. It is the summons from God not only to become a part of His family through identification with His Son, Jesus Christ, but also to fulfill the high and holy purpose He has for us.

Think of some of the individuals called by God that we read about in His Word. Abraham (Heb. 11:8), called to leave his kindred and country to initiate a new Theocratic nation; Moses (Ex. 3:4), called to deliver the same people from the bondage of a foreign power; Samuel (1 Sam. 3:4), called to rescue a corrupt clergy; Isaiah (Isa. 49:1), called to bring a backslidden people back to God; the disciples (Mark 6:7), called to spread the message of the risen Savior to those who had seen Him die; and Paul (Gal. 1:15), called to preach the Gospel to those outside the fold, but inside the Grace of God. These all received the call of God and responded accordingly.

Now, just think of it; you and I are recipients of the same high calling. We have been adopted into the family of God, added to the roster of the winning team. Our mission is to determine the direction of own personal course, planned by God, then to “press toward the mark”—the finish line. Our place in the world for as long as we are here is too important to slough off or let slide.

It is a high calling indeed; and I, for one, intend to fulfill it.