Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Get Back Here, Jesus!"

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22: 20)

Recently, my great granddaughter, Ava, was riding in the car with her grandmother, my daughter, Leah. The sky that day was resplendent with fluffy, white clouds, and Leah remarked to Ava, “See all the beautiful clouds, Ava? Jesus lives up there.” (Of course, you and I know He lives way above the clouds, but the concept of the three heavens is not so easily grasped by a 2 year old J. “He lived here for awhile, then He went back home to Heaven,” my daughter said. Ava thought about this for a minute, then leaned toward the window, looked up, and called, “Get back here, Jesus!” Leah remarked to me that perhaps this was the 2-year-old version of “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

While other people are setting dates and arguing over the order of events, pitting pre, post and a- millinialists against one another, this little girl got down to what is top priority in the doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: ANTICIPATION. I’m not sure what all the ramifications of the verse are, but I do know Hebrews 9:28 says, “…unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time…” And in Revelation, after John had been shown all that would need to transpire before His return, he still could not keep from crying, “Come back, Jesus…now!

The fact that most of us never really long for Heaven or the Second Coming until we are older is proof that to most of us, this world and the people we love that are in it, are both more real to us than our eternal home and Jesus Christ. If you’re honest, you’ll have to admit that’s about the size of it. It is only when we grasp the insecurity of wealth, the impermanency of possessions, and the inadequacy of human love that we truly long to be in the presence of Someone who holds all things in the palm of His hand, who gives without taking back, and who loves us with an everlasting love. I don’t know about you, but I’m only now, in the twilight of my walk with God, beginning to get a glimmer of this great truth.

Jesus said that conversion requires childlike belief (Matt. 18:3), and perhaps the most satisfying and effective Christian life will display the same kind of faith. We may sing or repeat the words of John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”; but here’s the test: can we say with the same sincerity and eagerness of a child, “Get back here, Jesus”?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Power of a Soft Answer

"A soft answer turneth away wrath..." Proverbs 15:1

To allow a barb or an insult to remain unchallenged, in many cases, is assumed to be a sign of weakness; yet when you consider the ferocity that wrath can possess, anything that has the ability to stop it in its tracks could hardly be considered weak. It’s much easier to fan a flame than it is to put out a raging blaze.

Notice that the answer is not withheld (though sometimes that is called for [Matt. 27:12]); but, rather, it is to be given in a soft manner. And I don’t think this is only referring to the volume of the voice, but also to the choice of words. Such replies as, “That’s a stupid thing to say,” could not be construed as a soft answer, even if you whispered it! But soft answers need not be weak ones. On the contrary, as Matthew Henry has observed, “Hard arguments do better with soft words.” To refrain from speaking the truth when it is called for reflects a softness of character rather than a softness of speech. Paul, of course, gave us the formula in Ephesians 4:15, when he advised us to speak the truth in love. Truth without love is abrasive; love without truth is anemic. The old Puritan, William Arnot, said it even more eloquently:

“Truth alone may be hated, and love alone may be despised: men will flee from the one and trample on the other; but when truth puts on love, and love leans on truth, in that hallowed partnership lies the maximum of defensive moral power within the reach of man in the present world.”

As wives, if we have nurtured the “meek and quiet spirit” in the “hidden man of the heart”(1 Pet. 3:4), the soft answer should come easier for us than the husband and father in the home (though a soft answer will serve him well, too!). This is by no means a demeaning observation to either. It is just that women have a capacity for gentility, nurturing, and stabilization that can never be duplicated by a man, except in extreme situations. For this reason, the art of the “soft answer” is made to order for a woman, and especially a wife.

Many years ago, I came across a Scripture in Ecclesiastes that brought this idea home to me in a unique way:

“If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.” (Eccl. 10:4)

If we read the text in the light of Genesis 3:16, looking at the “ruler” as a husband in the home, the rest of the verse will give us a wonderful guiding principle. If there is a heated confrontation (“If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee”), don’t step out of your position as a loving and submissive wife (“leave not thy place”), because a soft answer can turn away wrath (“yielding pacifieth great offences”). “Yield what?” you ask. In this case, yield your right to have the last word. And those “great offences” that need to be pacified can be either his or yours. Either way, the principle holds: if we’re willing to remain in the place God has given us, and speak the truth in love, in most cases, wrath can be turned away. If not, God can always step in and take our part. And He will, too.

When God spoke to Elijah, He did so, not in the boisterous wind, the roaring fire, or the thundering earthquake, but, rather, in a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). Truth wrapped in the gaudy, loud apparel of harsh rhetoric is overdressed and under-appreciated. But when it is loosely draped with the garb of love, evidenced by a soft answer, it becomes pleasing and persuasive. And nowhere is it more advantageously displayed than in occasions of fury and rage. Here, says the wise man, it has the ability to send the demon of anger running. Now that’s what I call power! So when you’re faced with the overwhelming force of wrath, make it your first line of defense.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sin Sick

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” (Heb. 12:1)

Puritan preacher, Thomas Brooks, wrote, “Satan, like a fisher, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish.” We would be shocked, I am sure, to know how well the great Enemy of our souls knows us. We are tempted to think we are prone toward one sin above another because we are just “hard-wired” that way, when it may very well be that Satan created the appetite by first spoon-feeding us. We all know that taste is acquired as well as lost. If you have ever had to relinquish a particular food or spice for health reasons, you know that, after awhile, it loses its tantalizing qualities.

And it can be even traumatic if you experience a nasty bout with the food. For instance, I once experienced three straight bouts of severe vomiting after having consumed Mexican food. To this day, I instinctively recoil when a Mexican restaurant is suggested.

How would you define “besetting sins?” I think they’re the ones that are capable of surrounding us on all sides, eventually taking us captive. The ones that nibble first then hang on like a leach that cannot be shaken off. They rear their ugly heads over and over, refusing to take “No” for an answer. Finally, one must resort to outside help: Divine, for sure, and sometimes human.

Oddly enough, the sin that lays you low may not even cause a hiccup in my spiritual life; while the ball-and-chain that sometimes holds me back cannot even find a place to attach itself to you. For this reason, we are not always as patient with one another as we should be.

Paul admonishes us to lay aside these besetting sins, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those around us, if we include them in that “great cloud of witnesses”; which I do. And though others may not be able to help, Peter says we have recourse: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations….” (2 Pet. 2:9). Fortunately, when Satan flashes his captivating bait and throws his overwhelming net over us, God is able to show us the holes in his net. Praise His Name!

As long as we are in these bodies, we will never be rid of our old sin nature; we will sin. But we can be conscious of those ever present ones, “which so easily beset us,” and we can allow the Holy Spirit of God to dull our appetites for them…even if He has to make us sick to do it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Drink From Your Own Well

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well…Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” (Prov. 5: 15,18)

“Drink waters out of your own well,” says Solomon. “Get your lovin’ at home!” There are no sweeter waters than these. Couples whose love enjoys the smile of God are the ones most capable of enjoying the fullness of its pleasures. God is the Author of marriage and unless His boundaries, as well as His blessings, are acknowledged, it becomes a half-hearted distortion of the real thing.

Marriage has been under attack from the Garden of Eden to the present day. The onslaught has intensified through time, until, looking around, one is tempted to suspect it may be drawing its last breaths. In the last thirty or forty years, it has come to be considered only one of many avenues for expressing love, along with such arrangements as “open relationships,” or living together on a trial or semi-permanent basis.

In the so-called “open relationship,” two people have apparently decided they are only somewhat fonder of each other than other individuals with whom they may choose to fornicate, from time to time. Then there are those who have decided to cohabit, exclusively, without benefit of marriage, living, so to speak, with “no strings”; that is, except for the psychological (and sometimes physical) ones that will haunt them later. And these do not take into consideration the wrath of God upon such actions. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).

Sex is God's wedding gift.

The intimate expression of love is only honorable if it is takes place within the confines of marriage, which Ephesians five makes clear is a covenant between one man and one woman...only. Anything else dishonors God, society, and the participants. God restricts sex to marriage, says Warren Wiersbe, not to rob us of pleasure but “to increase pleasure and protect


I’m not sure why I chose to broach this subject just now. Certainly not to bring up past, forgiven sins. More, I suppose, to warn those who may be susceptible to Satan’s promise that “stolen waters are sweet,” when all the time they are poisonous. I could write on it several times a week, no doubt, and be sure of addressing someone who has been, or is now, a participant in some sexual sin, or who knows someone close to him or her who is. If it is abhorrent to God in a non-believer, how must it look to Him in His children?

In a few days, my husband and I will celebrate fifty years of marriage. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that, by the grace of God, we are able to look at one another, clear-eyed and unashamed, because we have remained true to God and each other in this important area of our marriage. We share a great love that flames brighter and steadier today than when we were newlyweds; but, contrary to sentimental, popular opinion, that is not enough to ensure faithfulness. It is the sincerity, depth, and God-consciousness of the marriage vow that seals the purpose. The words of German pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonnhoefer, in a marriage ceremony, speak to this: “It is not your love that sustains your marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains the love.”

Mark it well; the best and sweetest love is the love that pleases God, so heed the wise man: “Get your lovin’ at home!”