Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Are You Ashamed Of?

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner…” (2 Tim. 1:8)

When I read Second Timothy, I am always struck by how way off the mark we can be when it comes to being ashamed. In our obsession to look good, we shun the authentic and embrace the impressive.  There are other places I could cite besides those in this book, but there is enough here to make me take a good, hard look at myself.

In this second letter to his protégé, Timothy, Paul cautions him never to be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ (v. 8). “I’m not ashamed,” says Paul, and he wasn’t (v. 12). He was willing to suffer anything for His testimony, even the stigma of being called a jailbird.

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: Jesus Christ is no one to be ashamed of. No one ever accused Him of any wrongdoing and made it stick. Some people invoke the name of God lavishly in their conversation, but are sparing in their mention of the manifestation of God on this earth—the Man, Christ Jesus. “God,” a word that can be very generic in our pluralistic society, can be bandied about with little fear of ostracism; but exalting Jesus Christ, the name to which every knee will bow (Philip. 2:10), and the only name whereby anyone can be saved (Acts 4:10-12), can sometimes get you labeled as exclusive and narrow minded. But it’s little enough price to pay, as far as I’m concerned. Paul was put in jail for the testimony of Jesus Christ, and the Apostle John was left to die on a lonely island (Rev. 1:9); and I defy anyone to find where either of them regretted it.

But there is something else in the first two chapters of which we should not be ashamed, but often are. Paul’s other wish for the young preacher was that he not be ashamed of him—Paul—because he was a prisoner of Rome. In fact, he goes on to mention that one glowing attribute of their mutual friend, Onesiphorus, was that he was never ashamed of the Apostle’s “chain” (v. 16). This observation challenges me to ask myself, “Am I ashamed of my brothers or sisters in the Lord who, though maybe not jailbirds, are still sometimes shunned; not because they are guilty of gross sin, but because they are “different.” For one reason or another, they see nonessentials differently than others of us do. They may be too controversial, or (as Paul was accused of being) too confrontational. They’re clapping on the second and fourth beats rather than the traditional first and third, as it were. We don’t have to agree with, or even understand, all of God’s children; but we do have to love them. And if Jesus Christ isn’t ashamed of you and me (Heb. 2:11), we have no reason to be ashamed of them.

Did Paul happen to mention anything in his letter that we should be ashamed of? As a matter of fact, he did. I verse fifteen of chapter two, he said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” If we’re not reading and studying the Bible—working at it—for the approval of God, and not other people, we should hang our heads in utter shame.

Shame is too important to waste on the wrong things. It can lead us to repentance toward God…or it can make us cowards. It can spur us on to excellence in our Christian lives…or it can turn us into ineffective Pharisees. And you can be sure, it will be one of the things that determines whether or not we will be “ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jno. 2:28).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Heavy Hand of God

“For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand…” (Isaiah 8:11a)

David tells us in his twenty-third Psalm that God not only leads us by relaxing, “still waters,” but sometimes by exhausting “ways of righteousness” (Psl. 23:2-3). God has promised to “continually” guide those who follow Him (Isa. 58:11), with His eye, if possible, or with a “bit and bridle,” if need be (Psl. 32:8-9). He leads them in; and sometimes He leads them “out” (John 10:3); but He leads them one and all, in one way or another.

In the case of young Isaiah, God had to speak with a “strong hand,” because His instructions wouldn’t be something Isaiah would have chosen for himself. He would have to be shoved into giving the people of God a message that didn’t want to hear, which would end with them blaming the messenger. For all practical purposes, he would be separating himself from them: (“…[He]instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people…” Isa. 8:11b). Remember, it’s the “goodness of God” that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4); or that leads us to an unsought for change of direction. The path ahead in the will of God may not be the softest one, but it will be the safest one. You can rely on that.

Not only that, the heavy hand of God may manifest itself as a closed door. We read in Acts 16:7, “After they [Paul, Luke, and Timothy] were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” They wanted to go one way, but God wanted them to go another. Whether the prohibition was an invisible lack of spiritual freedom or visible surrounding circumstances, the fact remained, it was obvious God had used His strong hand to shut the door. And of course, it served to make God’s later vision to Paul of the call to Macedonia more inviting…and immediate: “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia…”(16:10).

God doesn’t always show us His will immediately, and this is a good thing. How else would we learn the disciplines of patience, hope, and self-control that mark us for greater things in the service of God and others? But He does promise to lead His sheep anytime, anywhere, and by any means. Valiant Nehemiah reveled in “the good hand of my God upon me”; and suffering Job begged, “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me” (Job 19:21). But either way, they both experienced the Hand of God in their lives. Only those who have no Shepherd have no experience with His touch. Thank God today for His “strong hand” in your own life!

“He leadeth me; He leadeth me,
By His strong hand He leadeth me.
His faithful follower I would be;
For my His hand He leadeth me.”

— Joseph H. Gilmore

Saturday, May 18, 2013


When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? – Job 34:29a

Did you catch the “who”? Let’s face it; some people are just plain troublemakers. They can stir up, lead astray, undermine, isolate, dishearten, or otherwise plague others around them just by showing up. They can be either covert or audacious, but either way, they can sabotage your peace and quietness of soul. The bad thing is, sometimes they’re unavoidable. If that’s the case, drastic measures are called for. No, I’m not advocating violence here.   

The only kind of quietness that stops a real troublemaker is the kind of quietness that only God can give. As the verse says, it’s invincible. Nobody, even the worst troublemaker you know, can withstand it. The peace of God passes all understanding (Philip. 4:7) and leaves the worst troublemaker wallowing in his or her own misery. With quietness comes confidence and with confidence comes strength (Isa. 30:15). The most awe-inspiring strength is quiet strength that remains unruffled and unshakable.

The kind of peace and quietness I’m talking about is not drug-induced or dependent on trance-like “meditation.” It comes from living daily in the presence of God through His Word and the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Philip. 2:1). It’s inner peace that produces outward grace and what I love to call, “Spiritual poise.” It’s not a quiet voice; it’s a quiet spirit. And it quiets the loudest, most overpowering troublemaker.

“A cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.”   - Amy Carmichael

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Terrible Waste

“But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor. 2:16b) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 2:5)

“I just don’t think he (she) has any spiritual perception at all.” This was said about someone the speaker and I both knew. “Oh, no,” I countered, “I think there’s definite evidence of spiritual perception; it just isn’t being utilized.” I may have been wrong about this particular person, but I don’t think the concept is farfetched. As a matter of fact, the two verses cited above seem to bear this out.

The verse in First Corinthians is comparing the “natural” (unsaved) man and the one who has been granted “spiritual” discernment (the saved man or woman). In the case of the latter, Paul says we can be sure that this person has the mind of Christ. This incomparable advantage is part of the salvation “package,” if you will. Yet in Philippians, the same writer admonishes us as believers to let the mind of Christ live in us. The key word here is “let,” indicating a choice.

“Christ-mindedness,” seeing all of life as Christ sees it, is not inevitable for the child of God; but it is available.

The natural man “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” but the spiritual man does. He or she “gets it”; they just don’t always do anything with it. And if you’re familiar at all with what the Bible says about rejecting light, you recognize that this is very dangerous, because, as the saying goes, “Light rejected brings greater darkness. The brightest light is of no use to you if your eyes are closed. It’s possible to end up being like the children of Israel, who boasted of having been given the Law, while at the same time refusing to keep it (Rom. 2).

You and I, as New Testament believers, have been given the mind of Christ. It’s up to us, however, whether or not we choose to let this Mind think, live, and breathe through our daily lives. Believe me, this brings even greater significance to the popular adage, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Yes, it is, especially when it’s the mind of Christ.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Still Miss Her

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed…” – Prov. 31:28a

It’s been nearly twenty-four years ago since my mother went home to be with the Lord. I wasn’t there when she died. I was in Northern Ireland, serving God with my husband and our two younger children, Josh and Charity. On Mother’s Day, I don’t think about my own happy role as a mother; I think of her. I think of my children every day, but not my mother (or father, for that matter). But when I do, I never fail to call her, “Bless-ed,” and myself, “blessed.” And I miss her. Though we were apart for most of my married life, I still knew it was possible to see her. Now our next reunion will be in Heaven, and it’s getting closer every day.

Forty-four years ago, I was a young pastor’s wife in Florida, and when that particular Mother’s Day rolled around, as usual, I was missing her. And that year, I didn’t send a card. I wrote a poem to tell her how I felt. Many years after her death, I found the envelope with that poem inside. It’s postmarked May 10, 1969. The ink inside has begun to blur but the poem is intact. It’s not a literary gem, but it is the best efforts of a heart filled with love and sweet memories.

Prov. 31:28a

There’s a sweet and sunny lady,
That I know so very well;
And I think now how I love her,
More than I could ever tell

Oh, I loved her when she rocked me,
As she sang her lullaby,
“By-o-baby, By-o-bunting”
Till my childish tears were dried.

Yes, I loved her as I older grew;
I realized her worth.
And observing other ones, could see
Mine was a noble birth.

But ‘twas not till recent years,
When voices called me, “Mommy,” too;
(Sweet voices—wanting, needing me)
No, not till then, ‘tis true

Could I ever know a tenth,
Of what my mother did for me;
Could I ever know the sacrifice,
A mother’s life can be.

But I’d rather be a mother
Than a queen in life, it’s true.
And I’d rather hear a little voice
Say, “Mommy, I love you!”

So, I wish that I could tell her now—
This lady faraway,
That I love her more than e’er before,
As I watch my children play.

I still miss her…I always will.