Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Never Too Early

“I love them that love me; and those who seek me early shall find me.” (Prov. 8:17)

         “The early bird catches the worm.” So goes the old adage. But I heard about a little boy whose response was, “Well…I ate one once; and he can have it!” J But it is true, though, early is always more to be praised than late. And the Word of God bears this out. We read of God Himself moving to action “early” in Psalm 46:5 as well as multiple places in Jeremiah. And David told God, “…early will I seek thee” (Psl. 63:1). All of us know what it is to be too late, but some things in life are always deserving of immediate attention. Here are four.

         First, and foremost, it’s never too early to give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s possible to make a half-hearted profession of faith at any age; and it’s just as possible to make a whole-hearted decision to accept God’s gift of salvation at any age. Our older son, who is fifty-three, traces his personal commitment to Christ to the tender age of four; and I was nine when I finally (yes, finally), after a long period of conviction of sin, asked Jesus to save me. Those who begin their walk with the Lord at an early age have the unique advantage of the help of the Holy Spirit in those formative years when habits, discipline, and general knowledge are being formed. It’s priceless.

         Second, it’s never too early to seek God in trials (…in their affliction they will seek me early” Hos. 5:15). Long before we pick up the phone or seek out a friend, we should seek the face of God. He saw that trial coming and has made every provision for our sustaining grace as long as you need it. As the Psalmist said, he is “a very present help in trouble” (46:1). He was there first, and so should you be.

         Third, it’s never too early to seek God when you’re tempted. Before you say, “No” to sin, you should say, “Yes” to Him. By this I mean, before you exercise your will, add the force of Omnipotence behind it. Acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your life, then take the shield of faith, “wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). When it comes to sin, God always makes a way of escape, and the time to seek it is early.

Last, but by no means least, it’s always best to seek the face of God early in the day. I realize, in today’s 24-hour life cycle, early means different things to different people.  For those forced to stay awake for one reason or another through the night, early may be one o’clock in the afternoon. Those women who came to the tomb early in the morning were the first to see the risen Lord. For most of us, once the day’s routine has started, there is precious little time to steal away for uninterrupted fellowship with God in prayer and the pages of His Word. I have made it a habit for many years now to begin my adoration of Him as soon as my eyes open. I can continue my quiet time soon after, sitting in my rocking chair with a cup of tea nearby, but I want my first thoughts and words to be praise to Him. These words of great Bible pastor and teacher, Joseph Parker (1830-1902) say it far more eloquently than I ever could:

This is the image of the text [Prov. 8:17]: They that seek me in the dawn shall find me; they that seek me at daybreak; they that come after me ere the dew be risen shall find me, and we shall have a long morning talk together: when the soul is young, when the life is free, when the heart is unsophisticated, they that seek me in the dawn shall find me, for I have been waiting for them, yea, standing by them whilst they were sleeping, and hoping that at the moment of awaking they would see me, and exclaim, Blessed Spirit, take charge of my poor, frail life all the day, and tell me what I ought to do. Fool is he who begins the day prayerlessly, who takes his own life into his own hand; verily in doing so he puts his money into bags with holes in them, and at night he shall have nothing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Faith's Report Card

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing…”  (Hebrews 11: 39-40)

         Faith always involves the future. You cannot read the examples of Old Testament saints in this chapter and not come to that conclusion. As I read their inspiring stories, I am always obliged to agree with the parenthetical beginning of verse thirty-eight that tells us “the world was not worthy” of these worthies. So I would be caught off guard and brought up short with verse thirty-nine, if I had not read it so many, many times. What? After such faith as this, they “received not the promise? After all they endured, their faith in the future appeared to be in vain. Yet the writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that God gave them high marks for their seemingly unrequited faith. They received a good report card.

         Of course, verse forty gives us the story behind the story (and there always is one). The answer to their faith was far beyond their expectations, a principle that still remains true. They were part of something much bigger that encompassed not only them but also us, the Church of Jesus Christ. The very definition of faith in verse one of this chapter involves something hoped for but not seen, at least not with physical eyesight. Verses twenty-six and twenty-seven tell us Moses saw Christ, who was invisible at that time.

         What is the lesson God is teaching us in this chapter? I think it shows us two kinds of faith. Faith rewarded with crumbling walls, parting seas, victories in battle, deliverance from lions, even bodily resurrection of loved ones; and “others,” faith, rewarded with homelessness, prison, torture, nakedness and destitution. Both groups are viable, sterling examples of faith, and no doubt, verses thirty-nine and forty refer to them all. My question is, do you and I give as high marks to the second group as we do the first? Or do we regard faith rewarded openly and spectacularly as superior to faith left to wander in the “deserts, and in the mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth”?  I would wager that if there were such an imbalance in the weight of faith, God’s partiality would lie with the latter group (Jno. 20:29).

A pending answer to prayer is a sure sign of something better on the way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Song

“The LORD is…my song…” (Psalm 118:14)

It’s no secret, I love to sing. In fact, I sometimes find it hard to refrain from doing so, even at inappropriate times. According to my old, faded baby book, I laughed aloud at five weeks (I haven’t stopped since!); and I was singing and dancing by eleven months. The dancing has tapered off somewhat through the years, but I’m still singing. Because I came to know the Lord at an early age, it’s only natural that gospel songs and the great hymns of the Church have made up the bulk of my “repertoire.” But I’ve always enjoyed other music, as well, as long as it did not offend my God-given Spiritual sensibilities.

Because our choice of subject matter in music is a good indication of what is going on in our souls, I find myself blessed today by music that is sometimes more pleasing to my heart than my ears! Some of the new songs being written often seem to me to involve the repetition of five or six notes; but I also see in many of them spiritual depth not seen in some of our “old” gospel songs. They were, and are, much easier to sing (at least, for me), but the Bible doesn’t give that as a criteria for music pleasing to God. If He is exalted (Psl. 9:11), the saints edified, and my own heart moved (Eph. 5:19), everything else I chalk up to individual taste. We all have musical preferences, but to make this a basis of spirituality and Christian fellowship is to place entertainment on an equal plain with edification.

But this is about my song. And as I get older as a musician, it seems to me that my life is not so much a series of transitions, but, rather, transpositions. By that I mean, the song remains the same; only the key changes. When I was younger, my voice would soar to the top notes with ease and agility; but now I find myself hesitant, and high notes are more likely to be touched than explored! Still, there’s a newfound depth to my lower register that may be less spectacular, but is just as satisfying to me…perhaps more so. The young girl who won a state competition singing “The Holy City” is now a matron who can envision that city in her mind’s eye more clearly every day. And the song of my life itself is the same one that began those many years ago. I may have had to transpose it as my circumstances changed, but the same melody goes on and on…and on.

Years ago, I sang a song that I always felt expressed my own feelings about singing. You see, my song is Jesus, and I have to sing it. It’s in my heart…

Though some may sing to pass the weary night along;

Though some may sing to entertain a worldly throng;

I sing because I worship God in song;

It’s in my heart; it’s in my heart.

You ask me how I find the time to read and pray;

You ask me how I smile when things are far from gay;
And how I sing His praises, come what may;
It’s in my heart; it’s in my heart.

It’s in my heart, this melody of love divine;

It’s in my heart, since I am His, and He is mine;

It’s in my heart, how can I help but sing and shine?

It’s in my heart…it’s in my heart!

—Arthur Slater

Thursday, September 3, 2015

More Than More

“The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” 2 Chron. 25:9

         What’s more than more? Much more! And that’s how God does things. He doesn’t merely give more; He gives much more, says the unnamed “man of God” in 2 Chronicles twenty-five. And He doesn’t just do more; He does much more. He can never be out given or outdone. Coming through Romans again, I was struck by the many instances Paul uses the term “much more” in his epistles. Seventeen times, by my count, if you include Hebrews, which I’ve always been inclined to do. I picked out several to see if they would bless your heart as they did mine.

         First: God loves us much more, now that we’re His friends, than He did when we were His enemies. “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). If He was willing to save us when we had no redeeming qualities, how much more will He be inclined to “freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32) now that the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, lives within us. As someone has said, “Having done the greater, He cannot refuse to do the lesser.” No, He cannot!

         Second: Grace is much more powerful and pervasive than sin. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20b). God’s grace is higher, wider, and deeper than the worst sin than can be imagined. It can forgive the foulest, repentant sinner and overcome sin in the weakest saint. To quote the songwriter: “All sufficient grace!/Never powerless!/It is Christ who lives in me/In His exhaustlessness.”

         Third: The “feeble” in the Church are much more necessary than the strong. “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Cor. 12:22). I take the word “feeble” in the text to include mental and spiritual, as well as physical fragility. On the surface, we’d be apt to disagree with the apostle. After all, these are the folks who require more of our time and patience, in most cases. But did not our Lord say this was a prime opportunity to minister to He Himself (Matt. 25:35-40)?  If we love and do good to those who reciprocate our kindness, He said in Luke six, it says very little about our true dedication. And if, as He said, the disciple is not above his master, or the servant above his Lord (Matt. 10:24), our most Christ-like ministry will be to those among whom He most ministered. Think about it.

Fourth: Our witness under pressure is much more influential on others than anything we do or say. “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Philip. 1:14). All of us would like to think we are able to inspire courage and confidence in those with whom we come in contact. Paul did…by going to jail. He engendered boldness—much more boldness—than he otherwise would have. What trials and pressures of life am I willing to bear to be this kind of influential witness for God, I wonder?

Fifth and last: The Blood of Christ is much more capable of erasing a guilty conscience than any kind of therapy. “How much more shall the blood of Christ…purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb.9:14). As I said, I’m comfortable attributing the letter to the Hebrews to Paul, so I add this final instance of God’s ability to top everybody and everything. People pay millions of dollars to try to rid themselves of guilt, usually by finding someone to tell them it was all someone else’s fault; when the only true remedy is to own up to your guilt and find a way to eradicate it, once and for all. Praise God, there is a remedy, and there is a way. When we realize God is the ultimate recipient of our offenses, and He has offered to forgive and forget them, whatever other amends have to be made, pale in proportion. The Blood is capable of erasing the most indelible mark on our conscience. Forget those “dead works” and serve a living God.

I’ve merely scratched the surface, but it’s time to quit. There’s much more I could say. What a Book! What a Savior! and what a God! Meet Him in the Word everyday and worship at His feet. Then ask Him for those things that would please Him as well as you. He loves you much more than you could ever dream. How much do you love Him?