Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Great Finisher

"...yea, I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” -Isaiah 46:11   

       There are people who go through life beginning things. They have wonderful ideas; they just never seem able to see them through. God is not one of those people. On the other hand, some people lack any real initiative and would rather take someone else's idea and run with it. This is not a description of God, either. He took the initiative and spoke the world into existence, and you can count on Him seeing it through to the end. He purposed to provide an all-sufficient redemption for Adam's fallen race, and when Jesus died on the Cross, He proclaimed, "It is finished!"

       Of all the projects God has taken on, you and I are not at all the least significant. Paul has told us in Philippians 1:6 that we can be confident of this: "[H]e which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." It was God's idea (not yours) to begin this good work in you. He took the initiative; you merely responded. And what He begins, He finishes. We are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), and He will not stop until the work is done.

       You and I have been called to do something in this life, as well. It may be on stage, in the wings, or a little of both. But one way or another, it’s our calling. It is based partly on our ability, but mostly on the basis of what He knew would be our availability. And if we mean business, so does God. If we have a mind to finish, He is prepared to see that we do. For He promised in First Thessalonians 5:24, "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."

         God has said of Himself, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.." (Rev. 1:8). That says who He is...and what He does. I am part of what He's doing. He has purposed to make me perfect, and one day, God—the Great Finisher—will finish the job!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hold Your Peace (Really)

“The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.” Job 29:10

         Here is another common figure of speech taken from our trusty old King James Bible. To hold your peace means, of course, to remain silent. This verse in Job and its preceding one indicate that it involves a tug-of-war between the mind and the mouth. “The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth” (v. 9). But why does God use the expression “hold your peace” etc., instead of saying, “hold your tongue”? Perhaps because, in many cases, when we find ourselves conflicted over whether we should or should not speak, what we finally end up allowing to escape from our mouths is not just our words, it’s also our peace.

         When Abraham sent his servant back to his homeland to find a bride for his son, Isaac, the wise man asked God to give him a sign so he would know when he had found the right young lady. When he saw a girl who met the criteria, you would think he would have jumped to the conclusion immediately that she was the one and tell her so. But we read in Genesis 24:21, “And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.” God’s will was too important to his master, Abraham, and to him, to commit himself before he had full confirmation from God. This wise man was wise enough to hold his peace. Am I?

         Aaron was wise enough to hold his peace before God’s appointed authority in his life: “Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” Once again, am I?

But lets go a Pauline Epistle for another example of how this truth should be played out in our lives. In the early Corinthian church, there was much confusion in their services, and Paul, hoping to bring some order, gave basic instructions in chapter fourteen of his first letter to them. For instance, if more than one man is prophesying, make sure its done one at a time. Then he says in verse thirty: “If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.” This reminds me of those of us plagued with the penchant for “one-up-man-ship.” When someone is sharing something God has shown him or her, or relating a wonderful, or not so wonderful, experience, we’re seemingly compelled to insert our own insights and experiences. Why? Especially when it diminishes their uniqueness and elevates our own superiority. I blush to think of how often I’ve been guilty of this petty play for recognition. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s un-Christ like.
There was one Person who never spoke one unnecessary, unkind, unhelpful, ungracious, ulterior word in His entire earthly life, yet it says of Him, “…he held his peace, and answered nothing” (Mark 14:61). Oh, that I might follow in His footsteps!

Actually, I think the term, “hold your peace,” is a perfect admonition for this kind of thing. So many times, when you hold onto your words, you hold onto your peace.

Lost peace, in the form of regret and self-disappointment, is a high price to pay for the sake of feeling relevant and important.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Groping Through Life

“We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes…” (Isaiah 59:10a)

It could be said of blind people that much of their lives is dependent upon feeling; but surely, this should not be the testimony of the seeing. Yet, I’m afraid this is the default setting for many people today, even Christians. They simply feel their way through this life. They’re led by their hearts and sustained by their emotions. This would be all well and good if feelings could always be trusted; but the truth is, feelings are the least reliable and most shallow of our means of perception and information. And, ironically enough, they can be extremely poor indicators of the presence of God.

Perhaps the most obvious area where our feelings like to claim first place is in relationships. Those people who make us feel good about ourselves, can become inordinately important to us, to the point that we lose good judgment. No one wants to be around someone who discourages or belittles him or her; but neither should we faun over the one who inflates our ego or always makes our heart flutter. Rather than shunning someone who has “hurt our feelings,” we should be more wary of the person who dulls our Spiritual sensibilities or offends God and the Bible, no matter how good he or she makes us feel. It is the wise man or woman who grasps the significance in the truth of Proverbs 28:23. “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.”

If this true in the realm of relationships, it’s doubly true when it comes to religion and God. The two disciples who encountered the risen Savior on the Emmaus road did not experience burning hearts until after Jesus opened the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:32). Any feelings we have that cannot be validated by Scripture, have no credibility beyond but our own sense of infallibility; which, like it or not, lies within the bosom of us all. Choosing a belief system should not be based on how it makes you feel. Such feelings should be highly suspect, no matter how deep or moving they may be.

In the lovely, ocean front town of Carmel-by-the Sea is the beautiful, ornate Carmel Mission. The beauty of this old, magnificent church gives one a distinct sense of awe, and many who go inside feel compelled to kneel at the breath-taking altar at the front, to pray before the images there. If my own faith were dependent on icons and beautiful surroundings, I, too, would be moved. Instead, the beauty seems cold and forbidding to me, when I realize that in the end, it hides the beauty of Jesus Christ and stifles the authority of His Word.

If you or I have nothing to follow but our hearts and no compass but our feelings, we must be blind, either because we have never been spiritually enlightened in the first place, or simply because we will not see. The Old Testament tells us God’s Word is a lamp for our feet to follow (Psl. 119: 105), and Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World in the New Testament (John 8:12); but we can be blind to both of them because of sightless eyes or closed ones. Either way, feeling and groping is a sad and dangerous way to go through life.                                             

    “If your feelings are contrary to the Light, follow the Light.” – Bob Jones, Sr.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In All Places

“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places…” – Gen. 28:15a

         It would seem to me that this generation lives on catch phrases in any kind of communication. One that I hear or read so often now is, “I’m not in a good place right now.” In other words, “This is not a good time for me.” They may be referring to present circumstances and/or their present mental or emotional state. In any case, they should not be expected to react or perform in a way you might want or expect them to.

         I get that; but I would argue, we just may not know what our true place is. For instance, God told Moses, “Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock” (Exo. 33:21). And Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Ephesians (2:13) that though our inborn sin has separated us from God, the Blood of Jesus Christ brings us back to that “place by him,” standing on the Rock, Christ Jesus. If we have cast ourselves on the mercy of God by faith in His shed Blood, this is our place, now and forever.

The place you are in may be a hard place, a place of suffering or grief or even danger. But for the child of God, there is no “bad place.” Our problem, it would seem to me, is the problem Jacob had in this twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis. “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”  He didn’t know where he was. He woke up to what he thought was a place of fear and dread; but when he came to realize it was really the “house of God,” he turned his “pillows” of peril into a “pillar” of praise! (vv. 18-19)

Whatever bad places the children of this world find themselves, you and I, as children of the King, can only be in one place: that place by Him. And that’s a good place!