Friday, September 28, 2012

Death and the Maiden

“And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.” (Luke 8:55)

         For Jairus, getting Jesus to his daughter was quite an ordeal, but once He was there, it didn’t take long for Jesus to set things to right. From the time Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading for the life his only child, he was hindered by throngs of people (v. 42); sidelined by the need and subsequent healing of a very sick woman (vv. 43-48); and finally advised to stop pestering Jesus, since his precious daughter had died in the meantime (v. 49). But Jesus reversed all the frustration and despair by saying, “Fear not; believe only, and she shall be made whole” (v. 51).

         When they reached Jairus’ house, Jesus dismissed the “rent-a-mourners,” leaving Him and the child’s parents, along with Peter and James, in the room with the dead girl. Then Jesus simply took the little girl’s hand, and said, “Maid, arise,” and instructed someone to give her something to eat. I love how the Holy Spirit chose to tell us that while everyone was rejoicing, only Jesus noticed that this child was hungry. For some reason, that always touches my heart.

Now, compare this with all that accompanied the raising of Lazarus (Jno. 11). In his case, a full-grown man, a heavy stone had to be moved and grave clothes peeled away, for he had been dead four days. Jairus’ little twelve-year-old daughter had perhaps drawn her last breath only minutes prior. Both were dead, but the resurrection of the former was accompanied by a lingering odor, hard work (removing the stone), and remnants of his past condition that had to be painstakingly eliminated. This was not the case with the child.

         My point here should be obvious. The time to guide someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, from death to life, is while he or she is young. This can’t always be the case, of course, and the gift of salvation is priceless (for us), no matter how old or how young the recipient. But who would deny that reaching the heart of a child with the gospel is of far greater benefit to him or her than waiting until he or she has been lulled into a deep sleep of sin? I close with these words from George H. Morrison’s Meditations on the Gospels.

“All spiritual awakening is of God, but the young are the most easily awakened. No grave-clothes bind them yet. No long continued sins have made them loathsome. Let fathers and mothers realize their opportunity, and plead with God for definite conversions. Christ still is saying, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hearers and Non-Hearers: Winners and Losers

“And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken evne that which he hath.” (Mark 4:24-25)

         Does it seem to you that God is more interested in how well we hear than how well we see? For instance, "If any man hear my voice”; "swift to hear"; "Faith cometh by hearing,” etc. In verse twenty-three, Jesus says, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, just because you have ears doesn't mean you actually hear. (Every mother knows this.) Not only that, not everyone hears the same way. As the old saying goes, “People hear what they want to hear.” But it’s even subtler than that. One old writer has rightly said, “There is no neutrality of hearing, because nothing is registered on a clean slate.” Our own character will filter, distort, or amplify anything we hear, and we will react accordingly. Moses and Joshua heard the same sounds as they came down from the Mt. Sinai with the tables of the Law, but Joshua, the warrior, heard “the noise of war”; while Moses, the leader, heard rightly, the sounds of merry-making.  

         The verse also tells us that the measure of our ability to give ear to God is the measure of what we will receive from Him: “Take heed what ye hear; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you…” I must admit, though, verse twenty-five has always been somewhat of a problem for me. I understand how you can give to someone who already has something; but what can you take from someone who has nothing? Well, how about this: Hearers of the Word are continually receiving what God has provided for their spiritual growth; non-hearers, on the other hand, are not only deprived of this vital nourishment, but any spiritual gain they may have made in the past, is soon depleted, as well. In other words, they're losing ground all the time. This is serious business. When we no longer have ears to hear the voice of God, we are left with only a cacophony of this world's useless noise.
Everyone appreciates a good listener…especially God.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


“And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? (Luke 7:19)

         Have you ever doubted the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, or even the existence of God? If so, you’re in good company. If I were a man, I wouldn’t mind having Jesus say there never was a greater prophet in all the world than I (v. 28), or have Him consider me a replica of Elijah (Matt. 12-13). True, this episode in John the Baptist’s life was probably not his finest hour, but it wasn’t his final one, either. Jesus showed no concern here that John would lose his faith. On the contrary, he simply sent his disciples back to remind him of what he already knew.

         There’s a difference between doubt and unbelief. The latter is a willful choice. Doubt, on the other hand, may just be an indication that you’re thinking, according to Oswald Chambers. Alister McGrath closes his excellent book, simply called Doubting, with these words:

Doubt is a subject that many Christians find both difficult and sensitive. They may see it as something shameful and disloyal, on the   same level as heresy. As a result, it is often something that they don’t—or won’t—talk about. They suppress it. Others fall into the opposite trap—they get totally preoccupied by doubt. The get overwhelmed by it. They lose sight of God through concentrating on themselves. Yet doubt is something too important to be treated in either of these ways. Viewed positively, doubt provides opportunities for spiritual growth. It tests your faith and shows you where it is vulnerable. It forces you to think about your faith and not just take it for granted. It stimulates you to strengthen the foundations of your relationship with God.

         “What shall I do if I’m doubting?” you ask. “Gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13), and grasp firm hold on “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). Spiritual discipline is called for here. Your lifeline is your relationship to God through prayer and His Word, because we live in a world that is completely alien to God. It’s like trying to live and breathe under water. We need “heavenly oxygen” to sustain us. Remember, faith is only needed when doubt is possible, and truth is no less true because it is doubted.  Yes, doubt is possible—perhaps probable—for the child of God, but it should never be acceptable.

If you feel you must doubt, then doubt your doubts.

Monday, September 24, 2012

To a Granddaughter (3)

“…singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16c)

         We have established that singing—Spirit-filled singing for the glory of God—is an activity that requires using our heads: “I will sing with understanding”; but the verse finishes by letting us know it’s all about the heart. And Ephesians 5:19 only confirms this. Sing with a heart full of grace, the great Apostle instructs us, not with any bitterness or resentment toward a brother or sister, and not with pride or false humility. The reason I believe this is so important is because of the last three words of the verse: “…to the Lord.”

         You see, even when I’m “teaching and admonishing” fellow believers or sharing the claims of Christ with a congregation of unbelievers, when all is said and done…I’m singing to the Lord. And so are you. We talk about certain songs being “worship songs,” but, in reality, they all are. I think I’ve already told you about the words I read in the foyer of the fine arts building at California Baptist University in Riverside that impressed me so much: “Come Sing; Come Play; but know this: your audience is but One.” That’s it. His approval of our singing is all that will matter in the end. Any applause we receive for anything we do down here will not even be an echo in eternity.

         When I think about singing, I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis said when he was asked why he prayed. “I pray because I can’t help myself,” he said, “Because the need flows out of me all the time.” That’s how I feel about singing. It’s like the old song I used to sing, “It’s in my heart, this melody of love Divine/It’s in my heart since I am His and He is mine/It’s in my heart; how can I help but sing and shine/It’s in my heart; it’s in my heart!” What’s down in the well will come up in the bucket sooner or later! J

         So, my darling Kassie, I would want for you what I want for myself, a life filled with music, with songs that touch the heart of others, but that first of all, have touched your own. May you sing with understanding and clarity, and may there be no doubt of Whom you are singing. I often say that singing is something I’ll take to heaven with me. Not my witnessing, for all there are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb; not my giving, for the very streets are paved with gold; and not any ministering to the poor and needy, because no one there is in need of anything. But, bless the Lord, we’ll all still sing there! No wonder it’s such a part of our worship and fellowship and ministering here. Just as the angels sang in eternity past, you and I, and all the redeemed of all the ages, will sing praises to God through eternity future.

Sing…not for all you’re worth, but for all He’s worth!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

To a Granddaughter (2)

“…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs...” (Col. 3:16b)

         I learn two things from this phrase taken from our text. First, our singing isn’t always about worship. Sometimes it’s about teaching and warning fellow believers. This means that our singing, especially public, non-congregational, must be doctrinally sound. God tells us in two places to “sing with understanding.” Psalm 47:7 seems to refer to congregational singing, and 1 Corinthians 14:15, to an individual. It’s just as ludicrous to sing about something of which you know nothing, as it is to speak about it. Because that’s what singing is all about: a message. As preachers used to say, “So-and-so will now bring us a message in song.”

         Further, a good message needs to be heard. If I sing before others, my main objective is to make the song as personal and pertinent as possible. I want them to know I have not only prepared musically, but spiritually; and I could not make it any plainer or easier to be understood if I were sitting next to them. I truly believe that if my own heart is right, and I do nothing to (knowingly) draw attention to myself or my talent; if the message of the song is doctrinally true, set to music that enhances rather than hinders that message; and if I clearly get that message across—God, the Holy Spirit, will use that song to bless hearts.

         Second, it’s obvious from this verse that from the early New Testament churches to Bible believing churches today, Christian music is not all alike. I won’t take time here to tell you how I differentiate in my own thinking between “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” I simply want to make the point that Paul took it for granted that when Christians get together to worship God and edify one another in song, the music isn’t all going to be the same. And if the churches then were anything like the churches today, some longed to hear only the Psalms, and some preferred the familiar, time-honored hymns, while others liked the new, more spirited, lively songs. (I’ve taken a little license here, but you get the idea.) J

Here’s the thing; if they preferred some preachers over others (1 Cor. 1:12), it’s safe to say they felt the same way about the music. And if believers today prefer different genres of music outside the church, why should we not assume they would prefer different ones inside? Could not Romans 14:20 apply here, as well? “For meat [music] destroy not the work of God.”

         Well, this certainly turned a corner from yesterday’s thoughts on the first part of Colossians 3:16, didn’t it? I have a feeling the final installment tomorrow may be just as different from the other two.