Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get It Right

“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind…” (1 Chron.28:9)

David’s parting words to his son, Solomon, give you and I the proper order for our walk of faith, as well. One of the most important skills in life is a proper sense of priorities. When we do the right things in the right order, we get the right results.

First, says David, we must know God; then we should serve Him with a perfect heart and a willing mind. When we reverse the order, we soon become spiritual “professionals.” A true knowledge of God, in all His glory, power, and love, cannot help but culminate in some type of service for Him. On the other hand, service can easily become an end in itself, leaving precious little time to nurture a deep, constant, and abiding relationship with God. It's the difference between keeping house for a living and keeping house for someone you love with all your heart.

David even gave his son instruction on how to serve God. It involves two things, he says: the heart and the mind. Preparation and performance of any service for God is dependent on a perfect heart and a willing mind. Don’t swap the adjectives. The mind doesn't have to be perfect (thank God!), just willing. A willing mind can be sharpened. But a so-called "great mind" can be useless to God or man, if the individual is unwilling to be disciplined by godly precepts.

Ah, but the heart is in constant need of perfecting. King Amaziah could boast that he did the right things; but God said he did them with an imperfect heart (2 Chron.25:2). Serving God half-heartedly comes from having only a nominal knowledge of Him and, therefore, only a lukewarm love for Him. Do you see why knowing God must precede serving Him?

Get it right: know God, then serve Him. Know Him intimately, through daily, personal contact and Bible study; then give Him a willing mind and a perfect heart, and see what wonders He can do!

"For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him" (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fit For Life

"Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field..." (Prov. 24:27)

Don't worry; this is definitely not another article on dieting. Not that I am wholly unqualified to set forth words of instruction on the subject, not from the stand point of great success, but great experience, if you get my drift. But if you're like me, one more book on a sure-fire way to lose weight could well nigh lead a body to bulimia. :) No, my goal today is not passing along ways to stay fit, but helping us find the right fit—in life, especially the Christian life.

You see, the trouble with some of these how-to books, whether it's about dieting or living, is that they seem to advocate, or at least indicate, a one size fits all approach. I understand there are basic rules that must be followed if one hopes to experience a healthy, effective Christian life. But once we have conformed to the laws and precepts set down in the Word of God, we're free to bring our own style and temperament into play. At least, that's my understanding of the implication of the first part of First Corinthians 15:10. "But by the grace of God I am what I am." I can, and should, improve; but I must be who and what God made me to be. Anything less—or more—would be hypocrisy and second best.

As I see it, there are at least three areas of the Christian life that should always be a perfect fit ("fit for thyself"):

OUR PERSONAL DEVOTION AND WORSHIP: Nowhere in Scripture are we told how long to pray or how much Bible to read during those times when we seek to nourish our souls in the presence of God. Nor are we told when these times should be. In fact, the Psalmist's testimony was that he talked to God morning, noon and night (Psl.55:17), which suggests to me day long communion. Still, it only stands to reason there should be a time of uninterrupted conversation between God and us, when He speaks through His Word and the communion of the Holy Spirit, and when we lift our hearts in worship to Him, acknowledge our need of Him, seek forgiveness for daily sins, and petition for ourselves and others.

Beyond these basic guidelines, our one-to-one relationship with Jesus Christ is as personal as our salvation. Your time with God is not a ritual; it's a rendezvous. You're not doing something; you're meeting Someone.

Are you comfortable in your devotional life with the Lord? You should be.

OUR SERVICE TO GOD: First Peter 4:11 says, "...if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability God giveth." Your ministry at home, church, and outside the home, if that applies, are as unique as you. We come into this world with certain talents, and others we acquire though life, but either way, they are obvious indicators of how and where we can serve God. They are not the only deciding factor, however. A burden should not be ignored (Philip.2:13), especially if it utilizes those God-given talents. Need may enter into the equation as well, though it can be frustrating, and even futile to equate a need with a call. They're not always the same thing.

Tell me, who chose your area or place of service? You, others, or God?

OUR "HOME-KEEPING" TECHNIQUES: Notice, I didn't say housekeeping techniques. That's only part of the job description. Besides, that falls into the same category as diet tips, in my case, because my failures have tended to outnumber my successes. Still, I add this category for two reasons: 1) to fulfill Titus 2:4; and 2) to bring a little sanity to the over-achievers among us, who mistake the admonition to be "keepers at home" for champions at home, who never miss and never come short.

The Proverbs thirty-one woman is my ideal; but even Solomon had to admit she's hard to find. And I don't kid myself that she didn't have her bad days, too. I mean, we're talking real people here. By all means, strive, as I do, to make her attributes principles in your own life, but if you sleep in some days or have to run through McDonald's to feed your children from time to time, or buy your clothes at Penny's or Wal-Mart instead of sewing them at home, don't beat yourself up. If your husband knows he can trust you anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, and if your children consider themselves blessed because you're their mother, you're not doing too badly. You are you, and your husband and children are who they are. God, you, and your family are the only ones who should determine how your home should be run.

Are you and your family comfortable at home? Who's home is it, anyway?

A.W. Tozer said, "God is easy to live with." If your Christian life is uncomfortable for you, either you are trying to live outside Biblical parameters, in which case, you will always feel cramped; or you're trying to live someone else's life. Your life should be "fit for thyself," not someone else. God's got the perfect fit for you.

Find it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


"Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." (John 13:7)

The mature believer lives his or her Christian life on a "need to know basis."

I was reminded of this truth a few weeks ago by a man sitting in a wheel chair who, after living a busy, productive life, is now slowly succumbing to the ravages of ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. One might easier understand these circumstances if the life being drained away was a threat to society or even merely useless to others. But in the case of a man loved by family and friends, who has served the Lord faithfully and fruitfully for many years, such treatment from His God might be considered ill-conceived at best, or unloving, at worst. But that is not the way this man chooses to see it. Key word here: choose. He has chosen not to wallow in self-pity or languish in limited usability. Instead, he chooses to be an encourager to those around him, and a witness to unsuspecting telemarketers who are forced to listen to his "pitch" for Jesus Christ in exchange for him listening to theirs. :)

I always think "Why?" is the least helpful of all inquiries. We might go to the scientist to ask, "How?" or to the prognosticator to inquire as to "When?" And the philosopher may take a stab at answering, "Who?"; but only God can be legitimately approached to answer the eternal, "Why?" And He, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to limit the time and place of His answer. In the case of our text, Peter's wondering as to why in the world Jesus was stooping to wash his feet was partially answered in verse sixteen of the chapter, where Jesus let him know this was not about basins and water and feet; it was about humility. But it would take the rest of Peter's life to grasp to any degree the cost of true humility.

To spend a lifetime looking for answers to "why" questions, when God has seen fit to relegate them to the "hereafter" is to find oneself gradually sinking into frustration and bitterness. Why do some good Christians suffer the dregs of divorce, betrayal, or unrequited love, while others seem to blithely step into "happily ever after," without a hitch? We could try to find personality quirks that might account for either scenario, but it wouldn't really answer the question or relieve the pain.

Why do some grown children raised by godly parents turn out (seemingly) good, while others, with just as godly parents, drift into gross sin or "doctrines of devils?" We could raise the prospect of shortcomings in the group of parents; but we would have to admit to the same probability in the lives of the former group. The truth is, when all is said and done, personal choices have personal consequences. God never once laid the blame for Samson's philandering at the feet of his godly parents; and even while Samson was choosing his own unrestrained and ungodly lifestyle, God was accomplishing His own purposes (Judges 14:4).

I suppose it all goes back to the age-old question, "Why would a loving God allow good people to suffer?" Volumes have been written, by both scholars and philosophers, offering an answer, but none of them has ever satisfied me completely. We can beat ourselves up about these things, or view our questioning as a complete lack of faith and trust; but we should remember that at one awful point in His earthy life, the Man, Christ Jesus, in agony of soul, screamed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt.27:46)

There are circumstances in this life that fall outside the realm of our personal understanding of Divine justice or love. But, I ask you, was the Father's complete forsaking of the Son on the Cross the last chapter in the story? No, because three days later, He raised Him from the grave. And when you and I, whether audible or not, cry to God, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" we can rest assured, there will be a resurrection, either of hope or in Heaven. Until then, we should live our lives before God on a need to know basis.

When we need to know, He'll tell us.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why I Believe...Now

"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness within himself." (I John 5:10)

"I find myself believing today pretty much what I believed twenty years ago; but I find myself believing the same things for different reasons."

When I read those words by pastor and author, Frank Boreham (1871-1959), I found myself saying, "Amen!" When I was young, I sought to bolster my heartfelt assurance of the things of God with reasons and proofs. In my case, this was not a bad thing, because I have learned, through a lifetime of observance and study, the Bible's claims of the existence of God and the Deity of Jesus are both reinforced by innumerable corroborating proofs and evidences.

However, now I find myself in the enviable time of life when, as Pascal said, "The heart has reasons which reason does not know." The rest of verse ten of I John 5 talks about the "record" God has given us: His Word; but before that comes the "witness within": the Holy Spirit. This is not to minimize the necessity of the Word of God, but to illustrate the requirement of the inner witness of the Spirit to its infallibility. Millions of people read the Bible and go to hell: but there is not, nor will there ever be, a man or woman who went there with the Holy Spirit of God living within him or her.

I believe in God, not because of the wonder of Creation, but because it inspires me to worship the Creator God. I believe the Bible I read is the Word of God, not because I can trace its supernatural footprint down through history, but because my heart hears the Voice of God when I read its pages. I do not have to see the empty tomb to know that Jesus Christ was God; I only have to experience communion with Him in prayer to know He is as alive today as He was two thousand years ago. I believe in the fellowship of the saints, not because New Testament saints met together on the first day of the week to break bread and celebrate the resurrection, but because I am drawn to be with God's people when they meet together. I do not fear the future, not because I know God's "plan for the ages," but because I know His plan for me; and it is eternity in His presence.

The story is told that when John and Charles Wesley's father, Samuel, lay dying in 1735, he turned to his son, John, and said, "The inward witness, son, the inward witness! That is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity! Perhaps you as a seasoned Believer would question this; and that would be fine. Even John Wesley admitted that at the time he did not understand it. But he did later, he said; and so may you.

For me, I would not trade the inward witness that has burned within me from the time I acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord fifty-eight years ago, for all the evidence in the world. And the closer I get to Heaven, the brighter the flame!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Ministry of Reconciliation

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:18

To anyone who has been estranged for a time from someone dear to him or her, the word “reconciliation” holds a special meaning. It assumes two things. First, there was some kind of relationship previously; and two, something happened to sever that relationship.

In the case of this verse in 2 Corinthians, all mankind, because of Adam's transgression, are estranged from God at birth. Our inborn predisposition to sin only proves this. We are alienated first by birth and then by choice; and as the verse says, we are only able to patch things up with God because He was willing to “[reconcile] us to himself by Jesus Christ." It was God who was the offended Party, yet it was He who affected the reconciliation by offering His own Son as a payment for our sins. We, on the other hand, have merely to acknowledge the estrangement, confess to the blame, and accept the terms of reconcilation. It was God Who assumed the bulk of the responsibility, and who sustained the brunt of the consequences. You couldn't ask for a better deal.

I understand from the same verse in 2 Corinthians (as well as verse 19) that we as believers have been commissioned to do the same for the lost and dying world among whom we live and work. In Paul’s words, “(God) hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, the Church should not be training “soul-winners,” as such, but rather, “reconcilers.” We must do our best to make those with whom we come in contact understand that they have offended Almighty God; and if they too will acknowledge their sin and accept the gift of God's Son as the only means of reconciliation, we can offer them the same deal we got. In effect, say to them, “[W]e pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (v.20).

But we should not leave it there. There are times when brothers and sisters in the family of God are in need of reconciliation one to another (Matt.5:24), and when family ties are broken for one reason or another (1 Cor.7:11). At such times, would this not call for the services of a "minister of reconciliation," as well? Is it not such people that our Lord is commending when He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”?

In some cases, it is we ourselves who have been offended, as God was. What was His response? Or perhaps it is a brother or sister (physical or spiritual) who is estranged from someone else in the family (or Family). In either case, reconciliation is needed, at least to the extent that the parties themselves, and the Holy Spirit, will allow. Instead of fanning the flames of dissension (as is often the case), we should pour in oil and wine and try to bind up the wounds (Luke 10:34).

Many of us look for some ministry in the Body of Christ. Might I suggest the "ministry of reconciliation?" Oh, it's not a very showy one; in fact, it's more of a behind the scenes kind of mission. You probably will not be recognized from the pulpit or commended by the crowd, but you will have the sweet assurance that you are participating in a high and holy calling, one in which God Himself participates.

Will you take the challenge? Will you surrender to the ministry...the ministry of reconciliation?