Monday, November 26, 2012

The Great Stabilizer

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”  (Rom.14:4)

            It would seem that as Christians we waste a great deal of spiritual and emotional time and energy on matters that are not are only outside our realm of expertise, but also outside our realm of responsibility. This is especially true in our dealings with other believers. We’re not satisfied to indulge ourselves on personal spiritual guilt trips (yes, I do mean indulge ourselves), we usually find it necessary to entice friends and loved ones to make the journey with us.

            Most of us go way beyond provoking one another to good works (Heb.10:24), to poking one another every time we sense a pending lapse in grace, or less than ferocious zeal for God. As the verse in Romans indicates, legitimate concern for the spiritual wellbeing of a fellow believer can easily morph into judgmental bellowing, an activity that doesn’t help either them or us.

In the final analysis, we’re usurping the authority of their Master…and ours. And, besides, as the verse says, only God is able to make someone stand. He is the Great Stabilizer.  We may be able to get someone back on his or her feet temporarily, but we don’t have what it takes to produce permanent steadiness and stability. That requires supernatural intervention (Acts 3:1-8). And, if that’s the case, the sooner we get out of the way, the sooner it’ll get done.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Self-Absorbed Grief

“…for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:13b)

         It’s so easy in times of trial and grief to turn inward and become focused on the personal repercussions of what is happening to us. When we are sick, our own pain can make us unconscious of the inconvenience, sleeplessness, or weariness it those around us may be experiencing. When we are bereaved or besieged, our own tears may blind us to the broken hearts of those within our circle of family or friends. No doubt, our inclination to such self-centered thinking is one reason why the Bible writers warn us never to see ourselves as special, one-of-a-kind sufferers (1 Pet. 4:12; 1 Cor. 10:13, etc.).

         I thought of this as I was reading the little book of Ruth a few days ago. Those three words, “for your sakes,” told me that Naomi was very conscious that her grief was having a painful effect on her daughters-in-law, as well. In fact, it was such a part of them, they could not bear the thought of being separated from her…and her grief.

         I highlighted those three words (“for your sakes) in my Bible and wrote in the margin, “In time of trial, who do I grieve for the most, myself or those around me that are affected by it?” Maybe you should ask yourself the same question. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Valley of Vision

“The burden of the valley of vision.” (Isaiah 22:1)

         This is first sentence in the first verse of chapter twenty-two of Isaiah. In my Bible, I have written next to it, “You see more in the valley than you do on the mountaintop.” This may be contrary to natural laws of vision that tell us, the higher up one is, the more one can see of the surrounding vistas. But it would depend on what one is trying to see. When it comes to spiritual matters, the more you look at what’s happening around you, the more likely you are to sink. Ask Peter.

         One reason why the valleys of life are more enlightening is that we tend to be quieter during those times. Mountaintop experiences (and I love them) often cause us to bubble over with word, song, and, yes, praise; which is all well and good. Wonderful even. What could be better than praising God? Well, maybe, listening to Him. I don’t know about you, but when my heart is breaking, I’m more apt to raise it up to God for comfort and guidance. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that for most of our lives, God finds it hard to get a word in edgewise. This is why, according to C.S. Lewis, God often has to resort to His “megaphone” of pain.

         When we’re in the valley, we may not be able to see what’s going on around us, but, oh, what a vision we have of the sky! As the old preachers used to say, the devil may hedge us in, but he’ll never put a roof over us. As long as we can look up and see the face of God, no valley can confine us for long. I’m reminded of the promise God gave to Israel about the coming day when Christ will reign visibly in the City of the King, Jerusalem. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low…And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed…” (Isa. 40:4-5).

         In the meantime, may you and I not fail to see all God has for us to see in every valley in which we find ourselves. May each one of them truly be a…valley of vision.

Friday, November 16, 2012

God's Chosen Saints

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”  (Isa. 48:10)

If there is one word that describes the child of God, it’s the word, “chosen,” for all the controversy it has caused down through Church history. Its prevalence in the Word of God is undeniable; but its priority in salvation, is what is most hotly contested. Verses such as Ephesians 1:4, and especially 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (“…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”), indicate a predetermination on the part of God that, for some, completely negates free will, and, therefore, all personal responsibility. For my part, I acknowledge the former, accept the latter, and recognize the Higher. I believe I was chosen to salvation by God, but “belief of the truth” was also a necessary component. And I also believe that the complete comprehension of these two elements falls under the category of what David calls things “too high” and “too wonderful for me”; and I, like him, readily admit I “cannot attain unto it” (Psl.131:1 & 139:6).

         Not only does the reality of having been chosen by God come into play in the matter salvation, it also is the starting point of true service for God. Verses such as Acts 9:15 and 2 Chronicles 29:11 attest to this. But when it comes to trials and testing, it’s not always as easy to recognize the preferential treatment of God. On the contrary, it’s easier to sense malevolence and therefore display bitterness when fiery trials befall us. But this verse in Isaiah tells us there is no positive and negative when it comes to God’s dealings with His children. It’s all good. The same infinite love that chose me to spend eternity in Heaven with God, and that positioned me for service for Him in the meantime, is the same loving wisdom that hand-picks me for assignment in “the furnace of affliction.” Just as chastening is a certificate of paternity (Heb.12:8), trials are the mark of favorability. It is God’s way of saying you and I are suitable for refining. 

         No child of God should seek trials, but neither should we bristle and complain in them. They are evidences of the hand of God in our lives, just as surely as the mountain top experiences. And we can be sure, God has reserved them for His  “choice” saints.
                                                                      Simply Trusting,
                                                                                 Salle (11/16/12)

Monday, November 12, 2012

More Than We Think

“To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him. (Isaiah 40:18)

         The majesty of the King James Bible cannot be matched by any other book.

         Bless the LORD, O my soul.
         O LORD my God, thou art great;
         Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
                  Who covereth thyself with light as with a garment;
                  Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain;
                  Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters;
                  Who maketh the clouds his chariot;
                  Who walketh upon the wings of the wind.

         I once heard our pastor say something that opened a window of limitless horizon in my mind: “God is more than who we think He is.” As children of God we know this world has a very limited, even warped, conception of Him; but our own spiritual presumption can lead us to secretly assume that because we have been enlightened by the Spirit of God to the Grace of God, we are now fully cognizant of the Glory of God. Not so. The most astute theological mind or the most humble, adoring heart can neither one grasp the Being that is our God. He who calls Himself, “I Am,” is the personification of being, having neither point of origin or conclusion. And should He ever find Himself in need of natural transportation, David tells us He would simply ride a cloud or walk with the wind. Yet, even as we try to wrap our minds around this vision, we realize He only uses such imagery in order to give us a mere finite inkling of Himself. After all, as Isaiah says, He is incomparable.  

         Is this to say that we should cease trying to comprehend the incomprehensible? Far from it. We should yearn as the apostle to “know Him” (Philip.3:10). The fact that He took human form testifies to His desire to be known; and John tells us in his first epistle that one day, “we shall see him as he is” (3:2). Oh, stop for a minute and ponder those last seven words! I’m not sure what all the implications of that may, or may not, be, but I quiver with anticipation (and some fear) at the very thought of it. In the meantime, I have determined to know as much about Him now as I am capable of knowing, while all the time acknowledging, He will always be more than who I think He is.