Tuesday, June 28, 2011


“…thou hast no healing medicines.” (Jeremiah 30:13b)

We all like to think we know what is best for us when it comes to good health, and sometimes we’re right. But, on the other hand, all of us know what it is to play the dual role of doctor/pharmacist right up to the time we finally drag ourselves either into a real doctor’s office or the ER. The trick is to know if or when we are out of our depth, missing both the diagnosis and the remedy. I’m not just talking about physical health here. We can become emotionally unwell and spend countless hours waning away spiritually, all the while applying substitute “home” remedies for tried and proven cures.

For instance, you can bolster your self-confidence or deaden your emotional pain with pills and alcohol temporarily, or you can find the perpetual poise of the man or woman who recognizes his or her righteous standing before God, through faith in Jesus Christ; or allow the Comforter, the sweet Holy Spirit to soothe you aching heart and relieve your troubled mind.

Not only that, if amusement is your only remedy for boredom, try getting into the Word of God and exploring one of its eternal truths that will keep you thinking long after you’ve closed the Book. Or spend time with some of God’s full and overflowing saints, just waiting for someone to share their joy. After that, the amusements of the world, even the wholesome ones, will seem like cheap thrills.

And rather than finding your comfort in “comfort foods,” why not look to the One of whom the Psalmist said, “…he satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psl.107:9); because I think it’s obvious, the food we consume after our physical hunger has been appeased is trying to fill some other need in our lives. And it’s never enough.

If you are one who is trying to self-medicate your emotional anguish with things like pills, alcohol, amusements, or comfort food, you should know that these are medicines that will not heal. They may dull the pain for awhile, but it will always come back. What you need is a physician who makes house calls, day or night. God has said of himself, “I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exo.15:26). Make sure He is your “primary care giver.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Gospel According to Pinocchio

“Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?” (Isaiah 45:9)

When you saw the title, you thought you were going to be warned about the sin of lying, didn’t you? No, today I’m going beyond your nose or even your truthfulness to something far deeper: your will.

We all remember the story of Pinocchio, don’t we? The puppet who wanted to be a real boy? Pinocchio’s real problem was not his inclination for lying, as bad as that may be. No, his real problem was that he questioned his “creator/father,” kindly, old Gepetto. All his miss-adventures began when he left home; and if he had not returned, he would never have been what he and his father wanted him to be. And the same is true of all of us, saved or lost.

It’s one thing to struggle against other people (“Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth.”) But it’s a whole different ball game when you and I strive against our Maker, the One who fashioned us, saying, as it were, “What are you doing with me?” (“What makest thou?”) There is a reason God refers to His people as clay, and in this case, poor, broken pieces of pottery (potsherds). It’s because we are nothing without His hand upon us. He redeemed us in order to fashion us, and conform us to the image of His Son. He made because He had plans for us.

I’ll give you two good reasons for not striving with your Maker. First, it’s futile. “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isa.45:23); “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…yea, I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it (Isa.46:10-11). God will not be thwarted. His purpose for our lives will be fulfilled. We have the option of choice when it comes to our own pleasure in His will; but God has made a great personal investment in our creation and redemption, and His pleasure trumps ours every time. The good thing about it is that when you and I yield to His pleasure, we end up being pleased ourselves.

Second, we can rest assured our Maker/Savior has our best interest at heart. His will for us is all bound up in His love for us. The two are inseparable. When He closes a door, it’s not to shut us out, but to shut us in; when He wounds us, He pours in soothing ointment; when He breaks our heart, He makes it softer; and when He leaves us alone, He draws us closer to Himself. All God’s touches are tender. As one old Puritan wrote, “ We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us.”

Are you striving with your “Maker” over something in your life? Know that not only are you fighting a losing battle, you’re fighting a foolish one. (Ask Jacob.) You’re shrugging your shoulder at the dearest Friend you have, whose love will go beyond the grave. He has promised, “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isa.46:4).

When Pinocchio left home, he sang, “There are no strings on me.” But he changed his tune. Have you?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Walk Softly

“Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly…” (Gen. 33:14)

In one of her many inspiring writings, the missionary, Amy Carmichael advised her workers to “walk softly with the Lord.” This provides a very helpful image for me as someone who sometimes steps too assuredly on unsure paths. It is too easy for me to speak my mind before it has reached a rational conclusion!

Walking softly suggests other things. In the case of the verse cited in Genesis, it was Jacob acknowledging that he was forced to lead his family and livestock behind Esau, because he would not be able to keep up with him. In other words, he was conceding a weakness. For most of us, this is very hard to do. In the past, Jacob could always find a way to come out ahead, but since his wrestling match with the Angel (Gen.32:24-31), all that was changed. He was now like others among us who have been subdued by God, content simply to finish our course (2 Tim.4:7). Not win the race, only “win Christ” (Philip.3:8). “I will not let me go, except thou bless me” (Gen.32:26)

By walking softly, Jacob put the welfare of others above his own ambitions. He could look powerful to Esau, or he could be a blessing to his family; but he couldn’t do both. And, as believers, we can come across as luminaries in the Kingdom of God or glowing testimonies in our personal circle of influence; but seldom do you see both. There are exceptions to this, of course; but my point is that voices that are the loudest can seem distorted up close.

Walk softly with God in order to hear His voice and make your own more audible to those around you. After all, in the walk of faith, the only One we have to worry about keeping up with…is God.

“How many can say of us, ‘As soon as I heard your steps, I felt better’”? ~ Oswald Chambers

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Cutting Edge of Friendship

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Prov.27:17)

In this jaded world of dysfunctional, even perverted, friendships, it would behoove each of us to take stock from time to time of just how adept we are at the art of friendship. Yes, it’s an art, I think. It takes understanding, tact, patience, compassion, and sometimes, a tough hide. The Word of God has much to say about this wonderful, if biologically unnecessary, relationship. In this verse, Solomon chooses the language of an iron-mason.

Obviously, the purpose of sharpening iron, or any other metal, is to produce an instrument with a cutting edge. Preferably, one that can withstand repeated use. We’ve had to endure the frustration of trying to cut a piece of meat with a knife that, as my mother used to say, “wouldn’t cut hot butter.” The purpose of sharpening, then, is to make something more effective. In the case of people, and especially one’s friends, the purpose is to help give them a “cutting edge” on life.

Notice this principle of life involves not a friend,” but his friend. In other words, “life-sharpening” is not a hit or miss activity on every acquaintance; it assumes a close relationship. As individuals, and especially as Christians, our lives should contain friends, with whom though we may not always be able to rub shoulders, we are always able to exchange minds. Friends are not just for sympathy or encouragement; we can get that from perfect strangers, at times. No, friends are for sounding boards and straight talk and wise decision-making. We sharpen the countenance of a friend by bringing him or her truly into focus. By saying, in essence, “You can be who you really are with me, and I’m interested in helping you be the best you can be.” Confidentially is a given; and honesty is a ground rule.

I probably should mention that this is a two-way proposition. If you and I are doing all the sharpening, we’re going to get pretty dull ourselves! And believe me, there’s no one duller than people who spend their lives trying to change everyone around them, while chaffing at the least hint of personal intrusion. As believers, you and I should always make sure we are “within striking distance” of at least one good friend. We should be exchanging burdens, prayers, thoughts, and ideas in a lively give and take that keeps us both on our toes.

Our countenance says much about who we are. Not the face we wear in public, but the one we reflect in unguarded moments. I don’t know about you, but I want my spiritual “features” to be sharp and in focus, open, honest and true. I need friends to help me with that, whether in person or by some other means of communication. This is the gift we can give one another; and in the final analysis, that’s what friends are for. If you have such a friend, thank God…and him or her.