Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Courage to Wait

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage..." (Psl. 27:14) 

In life, there are times when a single act of courage is called for. There are other times when prolonged heroic action is required. But perhaps the greatest show of courage comes when we're waiting to see the hand of God or receive the go ahead to make a move. This, my friend, will take every bit of spiritual and gutsy courage you and I can muster. Especially when some around us are saying, "Either give up or do something, even if it's wrong!" 

The truth is, faith is never passive, even when it appears reluctant. When the children of Israel were marching around and around the walls of Jericho, it may have looked to those inside that they were too afraid to actually fight. Nothing takes more courage than withstanding derision. When they did fight, after seven days of parade making, they had already won the battle over the urge to cut short God's clear instructions through Joshua. The time to move had come, but if they had surrendered to the impulse to strike early, does anyone think the outcome would have been the same. Their great show of courage started long before they stormed the walls and defeated the least seven days before.

The least favorite place for most of us is the "waiting room" of a doctor's office or hospital. We just want to get it over with. Yet, that's where we all find ourselves at various times in our lives: in God's "waiting room," waiting for answered prayer or permission to make a move. But here's something you can can mark down, big and plain: God's in the waiting room with us. He says so in Isaiah 30:18: "And therefore will The Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you..." He's there for a purpose, and so are we. He's waiting to be gracious to show us His grace. The question is, are we willing to wait with Him?

"Sometimes it takes a great deal of courage just to say what we ought to say, and sometimes it takes more courage to say nothing. " ~ George H. Morrison  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reproof: A Double Blessing

“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.”  (Prov.12:1)

A brute, according to the dictionary, is a “savage, insensitive person, displaying animal qualities and desires; one who is not intelligent, but irrational.” Solomon characterizes such an individual as the opposite of a man or woman who loves instruction. They are contrasts that play off one another.  Sound, effective instruction will always involve some degree of reproof, while the individual who cannot sustain a rebuke will be forever uneducated in the important lessons of life. They, like the animals, are forced to learn by experience. In the case of the brute beast, it’s because they lack the capacity to learn any other way. In the case of a “brutish” human being, it’s because they lack the humility that is required to learn. To receive instruction, one must first assume that the instructor knows something he or she does not. This is hard for some people to even grasp, much less acknowledge. Solomon says they’re worse than fools. “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (26:12).

We all know reproof is an expression of blame or disapproval, but would you allow me to perform my own personal dissection of it? First, what is proof? It’s evidence or an argument used to establish a fact or the truth. Therefore re-proof would be something added to an argument that has already been made. I would suggest that most of the reproof you and I experience concerns something the Holy Spirit of God has already pointed out to us; and in most cases, we have ignored it. This may not always be true, but from personal experience, I’d be willing to bet it is more often than not.

Those among us who might be tempted to pride ourselves in our ability to take a reproof graciously should first ask ourselves if this is only true when we can decide how, or from whom, it will come. God may choose to rebuke us through a kindly Samuel (1 Sam. 13) or an amiable Abigail (1 Sam. 25); but, on the other hand, He may send a ranting Shimei (2 Sam. 16), or worse yet, He may speak through a donkey (Num. 22)!

Now, here is why I say individuals able to see the hand of God behind the most unworthy instrument of reproof will find themselves twice blessed. Not only do they learn the intended lesson from God that comes with the rebuke, they have also exercised themselves in humility, something guaranteed to make one a recipient of an extra helping of the grace of God. “…Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”  (James 4:6). Is this not reason enough to love the source of the reproof, whoever it may be? “Rebuke a wise man a wise man, and he will love thee” (Prov. 9:8b).

It’s been said, “When you’re rebuked, consider the source.” I would agree with that…especially when the ultimate Source is God.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Is Your Day

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psl. 118: 24)

         Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but this day. This day God Himself made. Granted, He’s got the others covered as well, but this is the one that He wants us to focus on right now. This is not a new truth, but it can certainly become a lost one. I can be in good company having a wonderful time, and all the while be thinking about something unpleasant I may or may not have to face the next day. It’s possible to let the dread of tomorrow kill all joy today. That’s in direct contradiction to God’s will for my life.

 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow,” says our Lord in the last verse of Matthew chapter six. This is not an excuse for poor planning or inadequate preparation, but an exhortation to leave the final results to God. As the verse goes on to say, “…the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” All our fretting will not change a thing; it will only furnish us with unnecessary grief today. George McDonald made this observation: “It has been said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.”

Each morning, God presents us with the gift of twenty-four hours to do with as we will. He knows what is in store for us, and He also knows how we will handle it. How we will act and how we will react. But this does not negate our responsibility to choose; nor does it excuse us from culpability if we choose wrongly. Notice the Psalmist did not say, because God had made the day he can rejoice in it; he says he will rejoice and be glad. In other words, it’s possible to look at this gift from God, made especially for us, and turn up our noses. It’s a matter of the will. I realize some days look better than others, with seemingly greater prospects, but that doesn’t change the fact that God made them…all of them.

We should take each day from the hand of God, because that’s exactly what it is. Don’t let yesterday diminish it or tomorrow dampen it. It’s valuable currency with the ability to make us rich in the things of God and the joys of life. Spend it wisely—but lavishly. It was not given to us to squander, but it was given to us to savor.

Hey, you there wishing you could crawl back in the bed and pull the covers up over your head, today is a day made special order for you by God. It’s YOUR day, so…Rejoice!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

God Is And Early Riser

“And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.” – Jeremiah 32:33

You’ll find this same idea of God rising early in five other places in Jeremiah, picturing Him doing so, in order to speak and send, as well as teach, which this verse indicates. Of course, you and I know God doesn’t arise, because He never sleeps (Psl. 121:3), any more than He stopped His creative activities in Genesis because He was worn out and needed to “rest” (Gen. 2:2). So what is He saying to backslidden Israel by invoking these terms? In each case, you’ll find that He’s telling them, “I warned you way ahead of time, but you refused to heed my warnings.” What this says to me, as a New Testament believer, a Blood-bought child of God, is that God’s timing is impeccable.

If you’re anything like me, God’s care and provision are never in question. It’s His timing that sometimes wrenches our faith. Think of Mary and Lazarus’ sister, Martha, who never questioned that her brother would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” But she was pretty sure Jesus had missed the chance to make it happen before that (Jno. 11:21-24). “And as a matter of fact,” she pointed out to Jesus, “If you could have gotten here a little sooner, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

On the other hand, think of Paul, the Apostle, could have assumed that his deliverance from the prison in Philippi would be repeated in the Roman prison where he was then languishing, perhaps wondering each day, “Is this the day of deliverance?” Surely, now, when all the churches he had established were longing to see and hear him teach once again—now would have been the perfect time for God to restore him to active ministry. But I find nothing of this kind of brooding in his inspired words from that lonely dungeon cell in Philippi. On the contrary, his testimony was, “But I would have you understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philipp. 1:12). He refused to question God’s timing.

I’ve heard people say, “God came through in the nick of time”; but I submit, He isn’t just “in time, on time,” as the song says, He’s there ahead of time! That’s what He’s saying, when He pictures Himself as an early riser. In the morning, when I get up, He’s already there; when I face seemingly unbearable heartache, He’s waiting for me, with the means to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13); and when the brook has dried up and the ravens have all flown away, God is there with a barrel of meal that will never waste away (1 Kings 17). And, bless His Holy Name! when, as the old song says, “I come to the river at ending of day…there’ll be Somebody waiting to show me the way.” He won’t be there on time; He’ll be there ahead of time. Because my God is an Early Riser!