Thursday, March 27, 2014


“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thess. 5:22

If you said of me that I practice abstinence, you would be telling the truth, but it would only be a basic description and in reality, ambiguous, depending on what the word may mean to different people.

The word “abstinence” is not found in the Bible, but you will find “abstain” in five places. Two are in Acts 15:20 and 29, where the new Gentile Believers were given the only qualifications needed to prove their right to be considered bona fide followers of Jesus Christ. This included abstinence from eating animals used for idol worship in the Temple and engaging in fornication (vv. 19-20). Paul warns Titus about hypocritical heretics who preach a false asceticism that forbids marriage and commands people to “abstain from meats” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Then in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul reiterates the truth that fornication is never the will of God for any Believer, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances and should always be on our “abstinence” list. Peter begs us in 1 Peter 2:11, as soldiers of the Cross living in foreign territory, to abstain from fleshly lusts, that war against the soul.”

Now to our verse in First Thessalonians five.  Let me first say, there’s nothing unclear about the abstinence part. We all know it means to avoid something or someone, just walk away. However, it’s a different story with “evil,” which would seem to me includes different things to different people. Does it go past questionable, or even bad, to something more sinister? I’m not sure. I do know, in verse fifteen of the chapter, the “evil” is retaliation against another person who has wronged us. Just to give you some idea, you’ll find the word 613 times in the King James Bible. Good luck compiling a complete, definitive list!

The Bible is full of examples of people who were accused of offending others’ moral sensibilities. Our Lord was one of them. He was especially censured for keeping questionable company — harlots, publicans, and sinners, etc., and engaging in questionable practices, like breaking Sabbath rules and refusing to condemn a (repentant) adulterous woman. The fact is, I doubt any of us can claim to never having done anything that would cause anyone, anywhere, to question our dedication. Our goal should be to live our lives in the least offensive way possible, while, at the same time, maintain the integrity of our own God-centered conscience.

The point I’m hoping to drive home is something any of us who’ve tried to lose weight knows to be true: Abstinence is easier and quicker than moderation; but it’s shorter-lived; and, in the same way, it’s easier and takes far less Spiritual maturity to just follow someone else’s rules than to search the Scriptures, listen to the Spirit of God, and find our own. I agree with what Elisabeth Elliot has said in her highly helpful book, The Liberty of Obedience. “Had God given us a minute prescription for our behavior, no high development of individual character would have been necessary to meet it. He need not have mentioned discernment.” I have always been challenged by Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4:5. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”  I take from this that I should be known more for my moderation than for my abstinence, especially as I anticipate seeing the Lord. How about this for a working formula:

Abstinence is some things; moderation in all others

Friday, March 21, 2014

When To Cease

“And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:14)

This verse, like the all too common lament, “All we can do now is pray,” leads me to suggest that in far too many situations in life, our last resort should have been our first.

The “he” referred to here is Paul the Apostle, who was determined to go to Jerusalem, over the pleadings of Christians in Caesarea and the warning of the prophet, Agabus. It was the latter who warned Paul that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound over to the Gentiles for incarceration. Paul, however, chided these dear saints for trying to break his heart, assuring them that not only was he ready to be bound, he was ready to die, if need be, “for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v.13). Even now, argument still arises over the right or wrong of his decision.

Here’s my point, though; I fear we waste a lot of time and energy trying to persuade people not to do things they are determined to do, or conversely, to do things against their will. As wives, after we have voiced our opinion and given our arguments, we should leave it at that, unless sin in involved. To feel we must cajole or connive in order to change the minds of our “misguided” husbands, is proud at least and dangerous at worst. The same holds true for our grown children and anyone else in our sphere of influence. Our arguments may be sound, but repetition will not add anything to their credence; and often, as long as we are talking, God cannot be heard. We run the real risk of missing a chance to see the Lord work on our behalf, in answer to prayer, when we insist upon taking upon ourselves the duties of the Holy Spirit. And maybe—just maybe—we could be wrong.

I wonder, my friend, if it’s time for you or me to cease and say, “The will of the Lord be done.”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

To Be Continued

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psl. 23:6

In our personal DVD collection, my husband and I have several mini-series, like Lonesome Dove, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (the older, English version) and Winds of War. One thing all such series have in common is the words at the end of each installment, “To be continued…” This is to let you know the story isn’t over; there’s more to come.

I thought of this a couple of days ago, and immediately the last verse of Psalm twenty-three came to mind. The time frame of that verse goes from now through eternity. When we come to abrupt halts in our Christian lives that appear to be the end of the story, we can insert the words, “to be continued,” with complete confidence.

I began reading Job again today, and when I put myself in his place, I have no doubt that even as he was saying “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD”(1:21), he must have been thinking, “It’s all over now.” Yet, although he may not have known it, you and I know it was only the beginning of a new chapter in his life, and the horrors he was experiencing would cause him see God and himself more clearly and truly than he ever could have otherwise. The constant that remained in Job’s case and in ours is this: “goodness and mercy” are always tracking us. They follow us all the days of our lives, even the ones that look like the last ones. They continue and so do we.

But there is one way our story differs from those mini-series of which I spoke. You finally come to a point in their stories when it says, “THE END.” They don’t go on forever. But you and I will, and we’ll “dwell in the house of the Lord.” Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, maneuvering us past all the barricades that rise before us, sending us on our way again, till they deliver us safe and sound into the very presence of God. This is the best story of all!

Does it feel like you’ve come to an impasse, a dead-end, a blank wall, a washed-out bridge, a steep cliff, a point of no return, or the end of the road? Take heart; your story’s already been written. These times in your life are places in the script where God has inserted “To be continued.” Andby the way, the rest of the story is best part of all. Ask Job.

“So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…”(Job 42:12)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Landmarks and Caution Signs

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." Prov. 22:28

In Bible times, as today, a landmark was an object that either occurred naturally, or was placed specifically to mark out boundaries. Removing one incurred the judgment of God then, and it will earn you a hefty fine today. They’re indications of possession and order not to be ignored or removed.
To the grown son or daughter, Solomon gives the above warning in his collection of proverbs. They are perpetual instructions to be passed down from generation to generation. He repeats it in the next chapter: “Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless” (23:10). The "fathers" referred to in 22:28 go far beyond the ones that gave us birth. They are "Father" Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Paul, Peter, etc. They have left us ancient landmarks set in tables of clay, on parchment, and on paper. The verse in chapter twenty-three speaks of an “old landmark,” cautioning the young man or woman blessed with godly parents not to live as though they were “fatherless,” bereft of godly instruction.
I see an overlapping, or continuation between these two verses. Not all aspects of early training fall into the lofty category of an “ancient landmark," but the wise young man or woman latches on to those things that are, and incorporates them into his or her own world view and standard of personal conduct. The most important teachings we learn from Christian parents are those things that did not begin with them, those “ancient” landmarks.
But what about the “old landmark” Solomon speaks of? We’re told not to remove those either. Could I differentiate between those and the ancient ones, practically, if not doctrinally? Could I liken them to so-called “house rules” that parents set up as boundaries for their children? They may not have a definite chapter and verse behind them, but you can count on them to keep you within the perimeter of Bible principles. They’re caution signs for young travelers on new roads; and not surprisingly, many young people come to their own conclusion that they weren’t just caution signs, they qualify as good personal landmarks for the rest of their lives.
This world is stealthily removing God’s ancient landmarks from our country, and the devil is always on the look out for ways to do the same in our personal lives. We must be constantly on our guard. Caution signs are optional; but landmarks are obligatory. You remove them at your own risk.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Those Costly Wounds

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? And he shall answer,Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zech. 13:6)

My husband admitted to me that sometimes, after showering, he pauses to look at the many scars on his body from the recent major surgery he experienced, when five arteries in his heart were replaced. Not just the obvious scar on his chest, but also the numerous ones on his legs, from which they harvested the veins to replace the clogged arteries. As he looks at them, he says, he remembers all the pain and emotional trauma he suffered during those days in the hospital. But at the same time, he realizes now the added days of life that were given to him, because of what he went through. He remembers what it cost; and he realizes what was gained.

The words from the text above from Zechariah were either spoken contemporarily or prophetically, probably both. Quite understandably, they’ve come to be associated with our Lord, Jesus Christ, who indeed was “wounded in the house of [His] friends.” John says, “He came unto his own, but his own received him not” (1:11). And we have every reason to believe those ghastly wounds He received over two thousand years ago are still visible, either as perpetual wounds or visible scars (Jno. 20:24-28; Rev. 5:6-12). If so, would you think it irreverent or farfetched if I speculated on what I think He might remember when He looks at those wounds? I realize when you’re speaking of One who knows the end from the beginning, the word “remember” seems highly irrelevant, but I do know from His Word that God uses the term in dealing with us, even going so far as to leave markers to remind himself of something. “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember…”(Gen.9:16). So, if you’ll allow me to specaulate…

I do know that two of His wounds were in the palms of His hands; and I read in Isaiah 49:15-16, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…” God says about His people, He can’t forget them because they’re an integral part of Him. He only has to look at His hands to see them. And you may think me proud, but I can’t help but believe that when Christ looks at His wounds, He sees me. I’m the reason He carries them, and I’m part of the “joy that was set before him,” when he “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:1). Like my husband, He remembers the cost; and He realizes the gain.

And, O, child of God, if it’s true that He still has and looks on those wounds and remembers, He thinks of you too. That’s why there’s not a chance in this world or the next that we won’t be with Him where He is for all eternity. He can’t forget us, and to deny us would be to deny Himself. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Paul said of himself, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). And I believe He still bears the marks of us.

Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
They strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

                                    Charles Wesley