Thursday, September 29, 2011

She Came...and She Stayed

“And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.” (Ruth 2:7)

There are five words in this verse that I call Ruth’s trademark: “…so she came and hath continued…” This girl had many admirable qualities, but none that spoke more about her than this. Her decisions were not made lightly because her resolve was deep. People who are quick to make a promise are often just as quick to find a reason not to fulfill it. There were many reapers in the field that day, and no doubt, some of them found the work too hard and the sun too hot for their liking, so they quit before the day was over. Not this girl. When she resolved to leave her homeland and go with her mother-in-law, she willingly subordinated herself to Naomi’s supervision; and this was part of it — the hard, backbreaking part.

I wonder if this could be said about you and me? I’m not talking about housework or other day-to-day projects that can become tedious. I’m talking about when following God takes every bit of strength we can draw from the Word of God and the Spirit of God, when the possible jumping off places in a marriage are coming hard and fast, and when the title “mother” feels more like a ball and chain than a badge of honor. If you have never encountered some flicker of these feelings, you’re either a new Christian, a new bride, or a new mother. J

Some people are slow starters, but I’ll wager there are more who are fast quitters. At least, that has been my observation. Something my husband says brings some clarity to this problem, I think. He contends that anyone who has trouble making and/or keeping a commitment to God cannot be trusted to keep a commitment to anyone else. When Ruth committed herself to the keeping of her mother-in-law, she vowed to Naomi, “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Remember, you are not required to outdo, just outlast; you need not dazzle, but you should not fizzle. Your friends, your family, and most importantly, your God are not looking for perfection, just perseverance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:12

Your only claim on God is His claim on you.

This thought occurred to me recently, and I scribbled it down on a piece of paper, thinking there was more here than the obvious truth that “we love him because he first loved us” (1 Jno. 4:19). As Charles Spurgeon said, “There will be no doubt about His having chosen you, when you have chosen Him.” But I think it goes farther than this.

We have all met people who claim to have and know God, yet their lives reflect merely a passing acquaintance. Paul says in Philippians that He had been “apprehended” by Christ, and because of that, he was constantly striving to lay hold, as it were, on all that this means, (“…that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus”). Why does God lay claim on an individual, in the first place? He tells us plainly in John 15:16a. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”

What I’m saying here is that the only justification for anyone to claim that he or she “has God” is an indication that God has him or her. I can claim to be related to Queen Elizabeth II, but if I live in abject poverty, you would have reason to question my claim, would you not?

Paul characterized himself as following after Christ, and this goes hand in glove with John 10:27. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus called Himself the “good shepherd,” and characterized mankind as sheep. An apt metaphor, for many reasons. You and I talk about black sheep, but the Bible doesn’t. It only talks about His sheep and ones who are lost and gone astray. These the Shepherd goes after, calling them out personally, by name. If they truly belong to Him, He says, they will hear His voice and follow. Not the voice of a stranger, only His (v. 5).

In a precious verse in Song of Solomon, the Shepherd tells his lover that if she wants to find Him, she only needs to trace “the footsteps of the flock” (1:7-8). The footsteps will always lead to the Shepherd, and the footsteps of a true believer may be hesitant and slow, even wobbly, but they will always be following the Savior.

There is an old Dallas Holm song that says, “Jesus got ahold o’ my life, and He won’t let me go.” That pretty well says it. When God gets hold of a man or woman, boy or girl, He doesn’t let go. And if you or I just cannot get away from His claim on our lives, no matter how much we are tempted and fail, it’s a good sign we’ve been “apprehended” by Grace. God has reached down His omnipotent, loving hand and said, “Gotcha!”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Real Eye-Opener

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5)

It took a lot of heartache, pain, and tears for Job to get to this point. It could be argued that through most of the book he claims unique, first hand knowledge of God, while his “friends” are vehemently insisting that the opposite is true. As it turns out, they were all wrong. One reason we know Job’s claim in verse five was now true is that God says so in verse seven. Another reason is found in verse six, where Job says, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” We can be sure Job was now truly seeing God, because he was now truly seeing himself.

Faith comes by hearing the witness of the Word (Rom.10:17) and in most cases, the witness of men (10:14); but seeing requires the witness of the Holy Spirit (Eph.1:16-18). This is why to quench, grieve, or lie to the Holy Spirit is to put blinders on our spiritual eyes. When Christians and non-Christians alike say, “I just don’t see it,” when a plain Biblical mandate is laid out before them, they’re right. They don’t see. They hear; but they can’t see, usually because there is something between them and the Holy Spirit that is blocking their view.

Because we can find no other overt sin in the life of Job, it is probably safe to assume that spiritual pride was his great failing, which more often than not requires drastic measures to uncover. Still, God knew Job would pass the test of Satan’s sifting and be the better for it (Job 42:12a). What could be better than seeing God? For my money, nothing. Does this mean you and I must suffer to the extent that Job did in order to experience such reality? Not necessarily, though I do think there are places in the soul that only suffering can reach.

What I do know is that we all have things in our lives that have the potential for hiding the face of God. Some are common to us all, clear and plain in the Word of God. Others are as individual as our individual relationships with Him. And only those who truly seek the face of God will submit to the search light of His Word.

When I am willing to see myself as I truly am, I will see God as He truly is. And in both cases, it’s a real eye-opener.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slippery Places

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thess. 5:22)

Obedience is only manifested when there is an opportunity to disobey; but at the same time, when we go looking for opportunities to disobey, obedience is less likely to be manifested.

We should “abstain,” or refrain from those things that appear to be evil, says our text; but the fact that we are able to see them says we are not unconscious of, or oblivious to, them. To seek to isolate oneself from the world is not feasible, or even advisable, according to Jesus, in His intercessory prayer for His disciples, found in John seventeen “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (v.15).

When it came to the lost, Jesus never promoted isolationism. In fact, He was criticized on more than one occasion for fraternizing with people of questionable virtues. What He did affirm was that a true disciple may be in the world, but he or she would never be of it. In other words, those of us who name the name of Christ may rub elbows with unbelievers, but we should never put ourselves in questionable circumstances where we may rightly or wrongly be accused of being partakers of their evil deeds.

The more we dabble on the fringes of sin, the more likely we are to slide all the way in. We will always be faced with the possibility of sin, but we need not linger near places of its greater probability. As the proverb says:

“He who would not fall down should not walk in slippery places.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ministers of Refreshment

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he hath oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.” (2 Tim. 1:16)

Some churches have separate ministers of music, finances, counseling, children and youth, as well as ministers of preaching and teaching. If they had made such distinctions in the early church, dear Onesiphorus would have been designated “Minister of Refreshment.” You ladies who do a lion’s share of the food preparation for church dinners might think you would be more deserving of this title, but when Paul talks about being refreshed, it goes all the way to the soul. “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (Philemon 7).

Before we look more closely at our text, I want to share something about this ministry that spoke personally to me. We read in 1 Samuel 16:23 that King Saul’s soul was refreshed when young David played on his harp. So much so that an “evil spirit” that vexed him was temporarily driven away. Only Holy Spirit anointed music can do such things in the lives of listeners, and those of us who seek to share our faith through the ministry of music should make this our highest priority when we prepare to minister.

Now, to go back to our text, what one quality did Paul attribute to his friend Onesiphorus that made him a chief “refresher” in his sight? The fact that Onesiphorus was not ashamed of his chain. To have someone around who was not ashamed of what others might see as a blight on his character—his chain—meant everything to Paul. It would have been easy to come to the conclusion that he was suffering for a crime, not a cause, which tells us things are not always the way they look.

All of us have something in our lives that may be intolerable to someone else, a chain, if your will. You and I may be able to spot a flaw, even a sin, in the life of a brother or sister, but we are not privy to every motive. Truth be known, we all tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. This is not to say that we should never make judgment against sin; we should, every time. But to characterize someone simply by that flaw or sin alone would have been like characterizing Paul simply as a jailbird. In Onesiphorus’ case, he was glad to claim the old Apostle as his friend…chain and all. And that was refreshing to Paul.

Finally, I’m glad to tell you, ladies, even though we may not qualify for the office of a pastor, the “ministry of refreshment” is an equal opportunity employment. You and I are free to bring light to a dark place, life to a fainting heart, confidence to a hesitant spirit, the warmth of a smile to a frozen frown, a word of cheer to a mournful moment, and the hope of Heaven to a candidate for hell. I challenge you to step up and apply for the job. As they say, the pay may not be great, but the rewards are out of this world!