Thursday, May 29, 2014

Not That Light

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” (John 1:6-8)

God, speaking through the Apostle, John, made it abundantly clear that John the Baptist, great though he might be, was not the Light; he was simply one who bore witness to the Light. It’s as if God knew that someone would be tempted to confuse the two. But there is a big difference between showing someone where the light switch is and wiring a house for electricity!

I’m well aware that Matthew 5:14-16 teaches, you and I are also to be lights; but I don’t have to refer to a Greek lexicon, or notice that the “light” in this passage is not capitalized, to understand that my light is not the same as that Light, the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). The fact that my light can be hidden “under a bushel” would tell me that.

Now, before you tune me out for stating the obvious, let me elaborate a little on something I said in the first paragraph, the fact that we’re tempted to confuse the two. First, no one can truly illuminate us on anything. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). If any man or woman possesses any light at all on actual truth, it is because God, in His grace, has illuminated him or her. Others may point us to where the truth can be found, but only God can turn on the internal light bulb.

Second, and the point I especially wanted to make is this: You and I cannot be anyone else’s light. We can be candles in a dark place, but we can’t dispel the darkness. Only the sun can do that. If we could just wrap our minds around this truth, it would eliminate a great deal of frustration in our lives. I must admit, I’m preaching to myself here. Somehow I think that my powers of reasoning, my dire predictions, even my tears, can make someone suddenly “see the light.” The sad part is that these things can quickly degenerate into mental bullying, ecclesiastical threats, or emotional blackmail. We can (and should) bear witness to the Light, and acknowledge His principles of truth; but, beyond that, we cannot illuminate the hearts and minds of those to whom we bear witness. We cannot be the Light.

Matthew says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Did you notice in the text that people see our light by the things we do, not what we say? Good works top a good argument every time, especially when God’s glory is the goal.
So let’s “shine before men,” but always remember, we’re not the Light, and we will never illuminate even one of them.

“Who God does not teach, man cannot.” (Gaelic)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's Your Default?

“And the LORD said unto her (Rebekah), Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” - Gen. 25:23
What is the default setting of your life? I’m using the word as it is in the computer world: “What your computer will do if you don’t tell it to do something else.” We all have one, you know.  Since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, everyone born enters the world with the universal default setting of SINNER. But beyond that, there are certain individual traits and tendencies that characterize each of us, and they’re often seen early in life. In the case of Rebekah and Isaac’s twins, Jacob and Esau, it was manifested in the womb. At birth, Jacob, the younger, managed to grab the heel of his brother and latch on to his brother’s first born blessings. And the rest of his life turned out to one of lying, conniving, and cheating...until God got hold of him, literally, in Genesis, chapter thirty-two.
Some have attempted to condense these innate predispositions into four basic temperaments: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy--ambitious and leader-like; pleasure-seeking and sociable; relaxed and peaceful; analytical, quiet and pessimistic, respectively. Of course, you and I know it’s much more complex than that. But the point is, people react t differently, and after awhile, you’re able to see a pattern, a default setting, if you will. Some of these traits and tendencies are good and helpful, while others can be harmful to both others and ourselves.
When we purchase a new computer, we all change settings that aren’t practical or pleasing to us, like fonts, Internet browsers, mail programs, and printers, etc. Unfortunately, some are unaware that these can be changed, and settle for a status quo, go-with-the-flow computer experience. But there is something that will trump a default setting. It’s called an override. It cancels an automatic control with a manual one, like preempting the default Times New Roman font with the Bookman Old Style, as I often do.
Guess what? It’s possible to do the same thing in the Christian life, and it can be life changing. Sometimes it can be something as basic as “idling our motor when we want to strip our gears.” Other times, it may be standing for the truth when we would have cowered in a corner before.  It can mean resting sweetly in the will of God, when normally we would collapse in tears. Often it’s saying, “No!” to that lustful thought or deed, immoral relationship…or extra helping, when our whole body and mind are saying, “Yes.” These are only a few examples of what the overriding power of the Holy Spirit can do in the life of a believer who refuses to be stuck in a dead-end or damnable default.
“But,” you’re saying, “Who manually controls the override?” Good question. To me, it’s a coordinated effort utilizing my will and God’s omnipotence, acknowledging both 2 Corinthians 8:12 and Philippians 2:13. As my husband says, “If you mean business, God means business.”
I refuse to go through life parroting excuses like, “That’s just the way I am.” I want to say, like Paul, By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). I want the will of God and the way of God to be my default setting, not just an occasional “override.” When all is said and done, our greatest desire should be Epaphras’ prayer for the Colossian believers, “…that [we] may stand perfect and complete in the will of God”  (Col. 4:12.)

Say, child of God, what’s your default setting?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stay the Course

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
(2 Tim.4:7)

There is an excitement about beginning something—school, marriage, our walk with the Lord, etc. — activities that we anticipate will be ongoing and long-lived. The first days, weeks, or years of study; the honeymoon years of marriage; and the first steps of obedience to God all seem to have their own momentum. But later on, when studying becomes tedious, when marriage seems to be a blur of sameness, and when following Jesus becomes an uphill climb, it is not hard to find inviting detours off the course set before us.

Of course, studying is not always tedious, and the excitement and passion of marriage are like the tide that leaves and returns. And surely we all know that the blessings of serving God far outweigh the burdens. Somehow, though, it is easy to forget the glory in the heat of battle. It is easy to simply quit. I learn several things from Paul’s short sentence of three phrases. Paul recognized God had established a course of action for his life; and it would be a fight to keep the faith to the finish.

The great Apostle seemed to be (Scripturally) obsessed with the idea of finishing. He said in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy...” And he was able years later to tell young Timothy that he had indeed “finished [his] course” (2 Tim. 4:7). Notice he didn’t have to wait till he got to Heaven to find out that he had.  When it came time to die, there was nothing left in his “To Do” box.

A Sovereign God has assigned each of us a course in life to follow, but it is we who must decide if we will stay the course. And because you and I are “weaker vessels,” it does not necessarily follow that we are more prone to give up and quit. Faithfulness, “stick-to-it-iveness,” as my childhood pastor used to say, is a virtue without a gender. (It was women, remember, who stayed at the Cross and came first to the tomb.) There may be positions and activities in God’s service that are only for men, but each of us—male or female—has a God-appointed course in life. And if we want to finish tomorrow, we’ll have to stay the

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Using the Wrong Measuring Stick

“But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us…” (2 Cor. 10:13)
The last seven verses of the tenth chapter of 2 Corinthians are all about measuring, mainly going about it in the wrong way. Just as He condemns an unjust weight (Prov. 11:1), God has no time for a false measure. We all know it would be foolish to try to measure a cup of flour with a ruler. And by measuring our conduct against that of others (v. 12), or gauging the success of our ministry by someone else’s accomplishments (v. 15), we can never hope to get a true picture of our own Christian lives. I’ve thought for a long time that one reason we have so many shallow Christians is that people ask superficial, inconsequential questions. And the reason so few of us ever see ourselves as God does is because we use our own measuring stick, not His.
For instance, as Christian women, we can spend more time measuring the length of a skirt—ours of someone else’s—than the depth of the devotion. And if you think one is always a reflection of the other, you’re missing out on some wonderful, sweet fellowship. You and I are easily fooled by externals, but you can be sure God isn’t.
Then, it’s easy to measure someone’s prayer life by the regularity of their seemingly miraculous answers to prayer instead of the persistence of their petitions. Jesus talked about prayer that could move a mountain, but He also gave the example of the final result of “importunity” in Luke 11:8. If faith is the measuring stick here, cannot either example be argued? It’s not always as obvious we think.
And what about those who would measure the greatness of the gift by its size when Jesus was all about the enormity of the sacrifice (Luke 21:1-4)? My husband has preached for years that God is more interested in what we keep back from Him than all that we may give.
Finally, let me “meddle” a little here and suggest to you that to measure love—especially the love between a husband and wife—by the constant declaration of “need” instead of the strength of trust only demonstrates the fragility of that love. C.S. Lewis made a strange statement in his classic, Mere Christianity. Speaking of how to recognize a true Believer, he said, “They love you more than other men do, but they need you less.” I readily recognize myself in Paul’s description of the “weaker vessel,” but the love I share with my husband makes me stronger, not weaker.
Have you heard someone say, “You’ve got the wrong end of the stick here”? Well, some of us may have the wrong stick altogether, when it comes to measuring others and ourselves. And I have an idea you could add more examples to the ones I’ve given here. Go ahead. J I want to measure myself “according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us.” Nothing more, but nothing less. It’s a tall order, I know, but a worthy goal nonetheless. What do you think?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Listen to the Rod

“The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” - Micah 6:9 (emphasis supplied)

God has a rod (Job 21:9b); and like any good father, He uses it for correction (Prov. 23:13), to instill understanding and wisdom (Prov. 10:13); and to root out sin (Psl. 89:31-32). In other words, God’s rod is remedial, not retributive. It’s not to punish us, but to perfect us. We can learn two things from the cited phrase from verse nine of Micah six: First, when God employs His rod in our lives, it comes with a message; and second, although it may be another individual who is striking the blow, it is really God who is wielding the rod (2 Sam. 7:14).

There is a difference between natural reaping and Divine intervention. Some sins come packaged with their own consequences, while others—especially inward, secret, or so-called, “acceptable” ones—call for private, personal dealings with God. This is not to say that every Christian who experiences physical, emotional, or financial set-backs is encountering the chastening hand of God, any more than everyone who enjoys good health and prosperity is evidencing the pleasure of God. And one sign of spiritual maturity is being able to tell the difference. (By the way, all three forms of misfortune I mentioned—physical, emotional, and financial—can be found in verses 13-15 of this chapter of Micah.)

From reading this verse, it would seem to me that one sure way to know when adversity is a result of God’s rod is that a remedy that includes repentance will be shown to us. God is never ambiguous when it comes to His will for our lives.

The rod will speak.

All that is left for us is to be wise enough to listen, acknowledge our transgression, and accept the forgiveness He has promised. Mark it down, big, plain, and tall: When we listen to the rod of God, God listens to us.

“Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.  (Micah 7:7)