Monday, October 20, 2014

The Principle of Priorities

"Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright." (Gen. 25:34)

The English preacher and author, George H. Morrison (1866-1928), made a simple but profound observation in his book, Meditations on the Gospels. "One of the great arts of worthy living,” he said, “is the ability to see things in their relative importance." In other words, our skill in discerning what is truly important will in turn determine just how meaningful our lives will be. And the thoughts, words, actions, and people that receive our greatest consideration indicate their place of priority in our lives. Sacrificing what is both permanent and pertinent for the sake of immediate gratification or momentary considerations is to play the part of a shortsighted fool.

 It's all right to live in the moment as long as we make sure we're not living for the moment.

The verse says that Esau "despised his birthright." He would probably have argued that "despise" was too strong a word. Lost sight of, maybe; neglected momentarily, to be sure; but “despised”—isn’t that too severe? (If it were today, he’d be looking for some watered-down new translation, no doubt.) Well, the rest of the verse tells us he ate, drank, got up, and walked out. No big deal. In less than twenty minutes, perhaps, he had nonchalantly traded a godly heritage for a full stomach. I think this gives us a fairly good glimpse of where his priorities lay.

We all make foolish, even selfish, decisions from time to time; but when our choices consistently show no appreciation for the past and no anticipation of the future, our priorities are all wrong, and our lives lack all perspective and proportion. And, by the way, the standard for proportionate living is still Matthew 6: 33.

When we value trifles too much, we’re trifling with the truly valuable.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth

"And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings." (2 Sam. 18:27)

       But as it turned out, King David was wrong. The news coming up the road to him was not going to be what he was going to consider good. It was good that the army fighting against him had been defeated; but the message that his son had been killed in the melee was not a message any parent would want to hear. It’s the implication of David’s overly optimistic words that I want to zero in on, however: “He is a good man, and cometh with good news.”

        You see, we, like David, are tempted to assume that because someone is good, what he or she says will always be good. But, in reality, sometimes “good” men bring bad news; and sometimes “bad” men bring good news. The terms “good” and “bad” are not used in their strictest sense here, but here’s what I mean by my assertion: When we know someone—preacher, teacher, friend, etc., and they truly are good (or as good as sinful man can be), we are apt to attribute more credence to what he or she says, simply because we know, or think we know, they have our best interest at heart. Yet there are those among them who may cherish our friendship and admiration so much that they would hesitate to tell us the truth. And, of course, they could just be mistaken. One way or the other, sincerity does not guarantee truth.

By the same token, there are those who, for one reason or another, make us skeptical of what they say. They may have an abundance of faults; we may feel they harbor a real or perceived prejudice against us; or they may just have less than appealing communication skills. Whatever it is, you and I may want to reject anything they say straightaway, forgetting that God can use any means He chooses to enlighten us—even if it’s a jackass (Num.22)! I say this not to make us suspicious of the “good man,” but to keep us from dismissing out of hand the “bad man.”

        If so-called “good” men always brought good news, and so-called “bad” men always brought bad news, we wouldn’t have to be very discerning, would we? Instead of truth-seekers, we could just be “good-man-seekers.” But, obviously, that’s not always the way it works. Therefore, we should learn to accept truth for what it is–however, and by whomever, it may come to us.

Monday, October 6, 2014

He Got His Hands Dirty

But now, O Lord…we are the clay, and thou, our potter…”- Isa. 64:8
This past Sunday, our pastor played a short video of a potter forming a lump of clay into a beautiful piece of pottery. I’ve seen something like this before, but I told my husband later, I never noticed before how dirty the hands of the potter became in this whole process. The finished product is smooth and clean, but you or I would be hesitant to touch the hand of the potter at the wheel.
God has chosen to refer to Himself as a potter and those of us who are heirs of salvation, as clay. If one of the results of working with clay is dirty hands, it must be said of our heavenly Potter, as well. Of course, you and I know that God, high and holy inhabitant of eternity past and future, could never be associated with such an adjective: dirty. However, He could allow Himself to take the form of man and mingle with sinful flesh, all the while retaining His sinless deity. Would He do it? Yes, He would and He did!
Jesus Christ, God in sinless flesh, deigned to touch dirty, sinful flesh: He touched the lepers and made them clean (Matt. 8:3); He touched blinded eyes and made them see (Matt. 20:34); He touched and cooled fevered brows (Matt. 8:14-15); He touched deaf mutes and restored their hearing and speech (Mark 7:32-33); in John thirteen, He stooped to wash dirty feet; and on one occasion, He took His finger and wrote in the dirt to give assurance of forgiveness to a fallen woman. On these occasions and many, many others, the God of Heaven (in the Person of Jesus Christ) dirtied His hands to change human clay into trophies of grace.
The longer I’m saved, and the more I learn about Him, the less I think of myself. When I realize His blinding holiness coupled with His absolute humility, and then see my own sinful pride, I marvel at the magnanimous, undeserved grace of God that permeates my very existence. That He would be willing to get His hands dirty in order to make me clean and fit to live in His presence is more than I can comprehend. I am forced to say with the hymn writer:
And did the Holy and the Just,
The Sovereign of the skies,
Stoop down to wretchedness and dust,
That guilty worms might rise?

Yes; the Redeemer left His throne,
His radiant throne on high–
Surprising mercy! Love unknown!­–
To suffer, bleed and die.

What glad return can I impart,
For favors so divine?
O take my all, this worthless heart,
And make it only Thine.

                                                      –Anne Steele (1717-1778)