Thursday, June 26, 2014

Borrowed Beauty

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…” Psl. 90:17
The word “beauty” is not found in the New Testament; and “beautiful” is only used to describe sepulchers (Matt. 23:27) and as the name of a gate (Acts 3). Paul refers back to Isaiah 52:7, where proclaimers of the good news of salvation are said to have beautiful feet (Rom. 10:15). Other than that, physical attractiveness does not seem to be of any particular importance or advantage to the followers of Jesus on this earth or the early Church saints. Let me be clear; I don’t see ugliness praised either. I’m just saying that our inordinate fascination with beauty can cause us to forget who we really are. I include Christians in this category too.
I have heard Christians refer to someone, especially a woman, as “beautiful inside and out.” I understand the sincerity that often motivates this, and I must admit, on occasion, when someone has referred to me in this way, I have wanted to bask in it. But at the same time, there is always the little, gnawing voice in my mind that says, “No, you’re not.” The truth is, what little I know of myself, and what God has said about my heart (Jer. 17:9), make me quite sure you might use a different adjective if you could truly see inside me. Having said that, I recognize that I, like you, as a believer, have a “treasure” within this “earthen vessel,” that cannot be consistently contained (2 Cor. 4:7).  Sometimes, it just shines through. In the countenance surely, and through the eyes, possibly.
Abigail, one of four named women in the Old Testament described as beautiful, was said to have a “beautiful countenance” (1 Sam. 25:3). Nothing is mentioned about her figure, only her face. After Moses spent forty days alone with God, Exodus 34:29 says “the skin of his face shone.”  You see, God’s standard of beauty is holiness (Psl. 96:9). And the longer we’re in His presence, the more it will be reflected in our lives. That’s one of the joys of growing old with the Lord. We have the opportunity to gradually become more holy, and consequently, more beautiful. J Even the ravages of sickness cannot erase the traces of grace on the countenance of a saint of God.
In his book, Feathers For Arrows, Charles Spurgeon gives this illustration:
“On the first of May in the olden times, according to annual custom, many inhabitants of London went into the fields to bathe their faces with the early dew upon the grass under the idea that it would render them beautiful. Some writers call the custom superstitious; it may be so, but this we know, that to bathe one’s face every morning in the dew of heaven by prayer and communion is the sure way to obtain true beauty in life and character.”

No, I know I’m not beautiful…inside or outside. But thank God, I can borrow beauty from Him. I can bathe my face in the dew of heaven every day, and God has said I can have His beauty upon me…upon me. What a beautiful thought!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ashamed of Victory

“And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people…And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.” 2 Sam. 19:2-3
David’s soldiers had won a great victory for him and saved his life; yet, instead of showering them with gratitude and praise, he ignored them—even shamed them, because he could only see that one of the fallen enemy was his rebellious son, Absalom, who plotted the overthrow of his own father.
Does it seem to you that victory has lost some of its shine in today’s world, becoming a criticism instead of a compliment? Granted, no one likes a braggart, but there is nothing attractive about false humility, either. We have become suspicious of excellence; though, perhaps, jealous would be a more accurate adjective.

Oddly enough, I see the same mind-set in Christianity today. Just check your local Christian bookseller and you’ll see the books that sell the most are the ones about people who were either gross sinners or miserable failures. The man or woman who may not have been perfect, but who consistently lived for God over many years has little to inspire the average Christian audience. Perhaps the old saying, “Misery loves company” is true; but it’s probably also true that misery makes for poor company.

I understand that none of us should be placed on a pedestal to tower over the rest of us, and someone who experiences our own shortcomings and failures may be more sympathetic to us. But sometimes sympathy is not enough, and someone our spiritual equal is not always the best person to advise us. If we’re all encouraged to flaunt our failures (yes, flaunt), at the expense of our victories in order to relate to the greatest number of people, we are downplaying the work of God in our own individual lives.

You and I, as believers, should never be so anxious to relate to other believers that we downplay victories God has given to us personally. Credibility with Him is always more important than credibility with anyone else. Besides, anyone fixated on our failures may not be looking for help, but, rather, vindication for their own. Victory is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, when we blush at victory, we’re ashamed of the One who gives it. 

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Cor. 15:57

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Every Day Is Father's Day

“One God and Father…who is above all…” – Eph. 4:6
You and I have often read or heard it said, “Every day is Mother’s Day.” But when was the last time you heard it said of fathers? I think sometimes they’re the only ones expected to earn respect, which they should, of course. But I’ve known less than stellar mothers whose faults were glossed over simply by right of birth—not theirs, but the children’s. And again, I recognize children are admonished to honor both their fathers and their mothers (Eph. 6:2). I’m just saying, I think we sometimes have higher standards for, and hold more grievances against, fathers than mothers.  This is a blanket statement, I know, and you may disagree, but it’s just something I’ve observed through the years and even more so in today’s society.
Now, having said that, I will tell you, my siblings and I have nothing but praise for the honest, hard-working, generous, loving father with which we were blessed.  As he got older, he grew more and more tender, most of all to our blessed mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Not only that, the honorable man of God (literally) that my children call “Dad” has always given undying love and devotion…and ­­faithfulness to them and their mother, as well as God. But this is still not what I really want to say today.
If everything I said was untrue, my title is still unquestionable. And if I were one of the unfortunates who has never known the love and devotion of a good father, it would still be true. For above all earthly fathers, good or bad, is the God of heaven, who has allowed believers in His Son to call Him “Father,” something Old Testament saints were denied. You and I can cry “Abba, Father,” and expect an answer (Rom. 8:15-16). Jesus, the risen Savior, told His disciples that He would be ascending “…unto my Father and your Father…” (Jno. 20:17).  And when He was asked how to address God in prayer, He told His disciples to just call Him, “Father.” As Blood-bought, New Testament Believers, we’re not forced to come to God on a Creator/creature basis, or even a Sovereign/subject one; we can come as a child to his or her Father, both born and adopted by Him (1 Jno. 5:1; Rom. 8:15). So here’s what my Father’s Day card says today:
Happy Father’s Day to my Father,
 Father above all others,

Today and every day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Body Prepared By God

“Wherefore when he [Christ} cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” Heb. 10:5

The Old Testament sacrifices that appeased the judgment of God for sin in the lives of the Israelites were fine…as far as they went. The trouble was, they were always meant to be temporary and foreshadowing (Heb. 10:1-4). It was “foreordained before the foundation of the world,” says Peter (1 Pet. 1:20) that God would provide himself as a sacrificial Lamb. But for this to be accomplished, God would need a body. A spirit could not die nor shed the blood that eternal redemption would require. This is why the body had to be prepared by God and conceived by the Holy Spirit, a Body infused with Deity but susceptible to the pain, anger, hunger, tears, and sorrow of those He came to save.

This is all beyond my ability to fully fathom, though I accept it, and by faith, have appropriated it for myself. I have claimed God’s final sacrificial Lamb as my Sin-bearer! I’m aware God is worshipped “in spirit” (John 4:24); but He is glorified in your body, as well as your spirit (1 Cor. 6:20). In fact, when it comes to finding and doing the will of God, the first thing you have to settle is the ownership of your body (Rom. 12:1). Having said that, now let me tell you what else the last four words of this verse say to me.

God has prepared a body for me, as He did for His Son; not infused with Deity, of course, but indwelt by it (1 Cor. 6:19). And He prepared it with His glory in mind. All I have to do is find out how. It must be stated as a matter of course that every sin against the body is a sin against God, wouldn't you agree? But beyond that, I believe our God has fashioned each of us to bring glory to Him, in our own individual ways, by talents, skills, affections, and temperaments that can be honed and utilized to honor and magnify Him to the best of our abilities. And I believe He sometimes prepares weak, sickly bodies to bring Him the most glory of all. But it works both ways. As George H. Morrison has said, “ You can train your body to be the best of comrades. You can train it to be the deadliest of enemies.”

I leave you with one question to ask yourself. I hope you will take it seriously and not answer till you’ve meditated and prayed about it:

“How did God prepare my body to serve Him?