Sunday, February 28, 2010

Members in Particular

"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (I Corinthians 12:27)

"Members" means I'm part of a group, but "particular" says I'm one of a kind.

Sometimes one is more comforting to me than the other. I don't know about you, but I like the idea of being part of something. Evidently God is comfortable with a group mentality, too, since He chose to characterize His people as a family (Eph. 3:14-15), and even more intricately, as a body. As believers, you and I are "blood kin," as they say in Kentucky, where both my father and mother were raised. In our case, however, the Blood happens to be Divine. And through the many years of my Christian life, this bond I share with my brothers and sisters in Christ has been a buoy in the storms of life, helping me, at times, to stay afloat, as it were. I agree with George Swinnock, 1600's Puritan preacher, who said, "Satan watches for those vessels that sail without a convoy." And this bond transcends gender, race, nationality, denomination...and disposition!

On the other hand, however, there have been even more occasions in my life when the fact that when God looks at His family, he sees just me, has made the difference between victory and defeat. Not only is our Great Physician a family practitioner, He's a specialist, as well. The One who holds the universe intact is still able to focus His undivided attention on someone as insignificant as I. It isn't group therapy I need, it's private consultation; and when that time comes, "the Doctor is in." Ironically, I have found that when I lose sight of this truth—God's attention and accessibility—I begin to unfairly expect special attention from those around me. Never a good thing.

There is a gospel song that says, "He loves me like I was His only child"; and there is much truth to that. As a mother, I cannot imagine not having any one of my four children; but, at the same time, only one of them would have sufficed to satisfy my maternal heart. I could truthfully say to any one of them, "If I could have had only one child, I would have wanted it to be you."

God sent His own Son away for a time, so that He could bring me to Himself. As far as I'm concerned, He loves all His children, but He loves me "in particular."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prenuptial Agreements or Marriage Vows

"...but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay..." (James 5:12)

I am not against making written agreements with people in whom you may lack compete trust, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to marry him or her. This may be an indication of either my age, or my common sense. I would be glad to acknowledge either one.

A prenuptial agreement is "a contract between two people about to wed that spells out how assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death." Most often it involves individuals of financial means (though not always); and therefore, I may not be as sympathetic as others might be, since my husband and I have had enough money through the years to quibble over from time to time, but certainly not enough to warrant taking anyone to law!

The very idea of such an agreement, however, has always seemed to me to be a presumption of failure. And, in any case, vows made before God are far more binding than promises made under threat of civil litigation. For this reason, my husband and I took very seriously our own nuptial vows. As I recall, they went something like this:

"I, _____, take thee, _____, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to honor till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance, and thereto I plight thee my troth."

Those quaint, long-abandoned, four words, "plight thee my troth," mean to pledge one's faith in solemn agreement. And that's the key: faith. Any vow or agreement is only as good as the good faith of the ones who enter into it. The health, wealth, or temperament of the other is of no consequence. Only the integrity of the two participants is in question. That is what I understood to be the meaning of those words. Therefore, when I entered into the covenant of marriage, my prenuptial vows were post-nuptial, as well. They were "according to God's holy ordinance," and therefore to breach that agreement would involve not only my husband, but also God.

I am blessed that the one with whom I joined in that sacred covenant of marriage all those many years ago, felt the same way; and he is still the sweetheart of my life. I asked him once if he would like for us to "renew" our vows on our fiftieth wedding anniversary, and his reply was, "No, I meant it the first time!"

And so did I.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tolerance (The Good Kind)

"And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel." (2 Kings 2:2)

Tolerance can be either a sign of weakness or a sign of strength. When truth or principle is set aside for the sake of peace, or when sinful or criminal behavior is permitted in the name of compassion, then tolerance becomes a stain on the character of either a man, woman, or nation. On the other and, in the case of Elisha, his willingness to befriend the moody, argumentative, and often demanding Elijah is an example of strength of character.

The prophet, Elijah, was always making waves, literally, right up to the end of his life (v. 8). But one thing could be said of this man: God chose to speak through him. And if that draws you to someone, you, too, are more apt to be tolerant of eccentric, or even abrasive behavior, in that individual.

Elijah may not have known exactly when God would take Elijah from this life to the next, but one thing was for sure: he was going to be there when it happened. Three times on this day he promised Elijah, "I will not leave thee." And when the sons of the prophets tried to convince him he was wasting his time on a loser, Elisha's reply was, "Mind your own business" (v. 5). He was not intimidated by ministerial peer pressure; for besides his devotion to Elijah, he had another motive.

Elisha wanted a "double portion" of the spirit of Elijah—not his personality (for sure!), or his communication skills, or even his knowledge—but his spirit. The spirit that dared to speak what others might know but were unwilling to say. In short, the courage to say, "Thus saith the Lord," if He truly had said something. And  as you know, Elisha was rewarded with exactly what he asked for, and for which he was willing to wait.

If you are have someone in your life whom God uses to stir your soul, bless your heart, and yes, even rattle your cage, consider yourself blessed, whether he or she is near or far away. Learn from him or her, no matter the inconvenience, irritation, or intimidation by well-meaning friends. Do you think Elisha ever regretted having followed the crotchety, old prophet, tolerant—yes, tolerant— of his disposition and demands? No, in fact, I'm sure Elisha blessed the day they met and spoke of having been there for Elijah's miraculous chariot ride to Heaven till the day he himself died.

Who knows; maybe you will be rewarded like Elisha was, of whom it was said, "The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha" (v. 15)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Take 'Em Off!

"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds." (Colossians 3:8-9)

Maybe it's because I'm a woman, but the picture Paul paints for me with these words is the idea of putting on and taking off different outfits. Sometimes, when I'm getting ready to go somewhere, my husband will say to me, in frustration, "How many outfits are you going to try on?" But you know how it is, something that looked good in your mind's eye, just didn't work for you when you finally gave it the mirror test. So you take it off and put on something else, right?

That's what Paul is saying (I think). "You're a 'new man' (or woman). Why do you want to wear the same old clothes?" Hey, I can relate to that!

Such "sins" as those mentioned in these verses are "sins in good standing," as Warren Wiersbe calls them. They may not land us in jail or send us to hell, for that matter; but they are all so "last year," for the child of God. Rage, revenge, profanity, vulgarity, and lying are all outdated, tacky, and unbecoming to anyone who names the name of Christ. You only have to take a good, long look in the mirror of God's Word to see that although they may have suited you before you were saved, they somehow just don't hang right now.

I like to dress well—not expensively or flamboyantly—but well. And if that desire only goes as far as my closet and dresser drawers, I'm missing the most important part of my wardrobe. Mark it down: a Chanel suit or a Ralph Lauren dress will never make up for a hateful spirit or a lying tongue. I want to be well dressed...inside as well as outside.

Friend of mine, if we're wearing any of these old clothes, it's time to take 'em off—take 'em all off!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Great Deliverer

"For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. " (Psalm 116:8)

Well, there you have it: the Christian life in one verse. Oh, it's not all there is to know, of course; otherwise, there would not be 31,172 other verses. But I do see here a wonderfully concise outline of the provision for life that God has made for his people.


God has delivered our souls from death. This physical body that in most cases serves us well, will, nevertheless, one day die. Only the return of Jesus Christ can alter this reality. But we who have experienced regeneration by the Spirit of God have been delivered from the devastating prospect of the "second death," as defined in Revelation 20:6-15, where the souls of those who have rejected Jesus Christ will suffer eternal separation from God in hell. No wonder Paul calls mortal death merely a "sting" in comparison; and even that has been removed (1 Cor. 15:55). No grave wherein lies a Believer can ever boast of victory, not since the Great Deliverer broke its chains forever (Eph. 4:8-10).


David goes on to say that God had delivered his eyes from tears. What a consolation to know that He who is mindful of all our tears (Psl.56:8) is careful to let us know they have no place in His heaven (Rev. 21:4). Tears are only a part of this life. Even the Man, Christ Jesus, experienced them (Jno. 11:35). But when our sorrow spills from our eyes and courses down our cheeks, the "God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3) draws us to Himself, as a mother would a hurting child (Isa. 66:13), and wipes our eyes with His "heavenly hanky." Second Corinthians 1:5 tells us, our consolations abound in Christ, the Great Deliverer.


Finally (and perhaps most importantly), I can be sure that God will "deliver my feet from falling." We may stumble; but as children of grace, we can never fall from His grace. When all is said and done, we will stand (1 Pet. 5:12). When you and I start to go wobbly, those "everlasting arms" will catch us (Deut. 33:27). Jude addresses God as "him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (v.24). This preservation will stand good until the day we reach heaven. That should cover it. When it comes to preserving, whether it is His Word or His people, God can deliver!

Do you need deliverance today? Do you need to know that your soul has been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light? Or maybe your tears soak your pillow (Psl. 6:6) till you feel, like Jeremiah, that your eyes are a veritable "fountain of tears" (Jer. 9:1). Have you disappointed yourself to the point that you feel you have sunk too deeply to ever stand tall again? Thank God, there is a Great Deliverer, who is mighty in salvation, ever-present in consolation, and unfailing in preservation. It is God. Whatever your need, you can call upon Jesus Christ to save your soul and give you eternal life (Rom. 10:13); you can experience by faith the comfort that is rightfully yours as His darling child; or you can claim your birthright as a child of God, along with the forgiveness He has promised, and stand in the presence of the saints.

I can say with David, "The Lord deliverer" (Psl. 18:2) Can you?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Consumed With It

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…” (Col.3:16)

Anyone who has had a problem with some type of addiction will tell you that it is possible to consume a substance, physically, or an idea, mentally, until the substance or idea finally consumes you. This can be tragic and, in some cases, irreparable with something bad. But in the case of the Word of God—something immeasurably good—unbridled consumption can only bring greater wisdom and fuller life. In the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the many definitions for the word “rich” is this: “Of a full, ample, or unstinted nature; highly developed or cultivated.” That's what Paul is talking about here. Being consumed, cultivated and developed in the Word of God to the point of near saturation. Not just with the words, but the Word itself. There is a difference.

It’s the difference between saying words and absorbing ideas, like the difference between learning the multiplication tables and being able to solve math problems. I have known people who could quote Bible verses one after another but were oblivious when it came to discerning Bible principles, especially in their own lives.

Memorization is fine, but internalization is better.

Bible verses should not come “off the top of our heads,” so to speak; they should come from the recesses of our hearts. This takes concentration—or, rather, meditation, to use the Bible term. The former is keeping our minds fixed in one place. The other is serious and sustained reflection. Meditation on a passage in the Bible will, almost without exception, lead to some kind of personal application. And that’s what we’re after here. Not just a road map to Heaven and a repository of truth, but a guidebook for life.

The handiwork of God can be seen in His creation, but His thoughts can only be found in His Word. We can never hope to think the way He does about things until we read His thoughts. And the more we read—and meditate, the more we will become consumed by them.

To use an old, Kentucky expression, read the Bible till you're just "eat up with it!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rich Lineage, Poor Life

"I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you."  (John 8:37)

You couldn't ask for a better family tree than the one the Jews of Jesus' day could claim. After all, they had Abraham for their ancestral father. Yet, by the time we get to the New Testament, we find they have strayed so far from their heritage that they are now prepared to kill the Son of God. Jesus provided us with the reason for their degenerative state. The Word of God had no place in their hearts and lives.

And there it is: the main reason why second, or even third generation self-proclaimed Christians, who seemingly have everything going for them, find themselves lacking so sadly in "life skills," much less Spiritual aptitude. Notice, Jesus didn't say that His word had second place; He said it had no place. With individuals like these, when any question in life arises, the Bible is the last place they go for the answer. And even when they do, they seldom follow its precepts. There would be ample reason to question the Spiritual condition of anyone who cannot (or will not) find any light in the Word of God. If he or she is truly saved, growth has become so retarded that trying to reason with him or her becomes an exercise in futility. I have seen this scenario played out down through the years.

A "goodly heritage" is a good start—an excellent start, in fact, with the prospect of a good life. But it's not a guarantee. It's what you do with what you have received that determines the outcome. Whether the advantage is seized or squandered.