Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving By Faith

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it.” – Matt. 26:27

         We’re told of three specific times in the life of our Lord when He gave thanks to His Father. I feel sure these were not the only times, but they were the only ones the Holy Spirit has set down for us in the written Word of God. The first is found in Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21, where He Jesus was so overwhelmed in spirit that God would choose to reveal Himself to the lowly and untrained (mere “babes”) instead of the worldly wise and lofty. Then again in Matthew 15:36 and Mark 8:6, on the occasion of the feeding of the four thousand. Here too, He “gave thanks.” But it’s the third occurrence which has drawn my attention today, this day before Thanksgiving.

         We’re told that before partaking of both the bread and the cup at the Passover with His disciples the night of His arrest, Jesus Christ “gave thanks” (Matt. 26:27; Luke 22:19). Knowing what the bread and the cup represented – His soon to be broken body and poured out blood – He raises a prayer of thanksgiving to His Father. Even knowing He would suffer betrayal, mockery, torture, and abandonment from both man and God, Jesus Christ, the Man, was able to see past the Cross to His restored seating place “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). He was able to see past the pain to the joy.

         Are we? I wonder. Thanksgiving is a time to remember both the blessings and trials that have brought us to where we are today. But what about the future; can we thank God by faith for what may lie ahead? Paul “reckoned” that the sufferings of this life weren’t even worthy to be compared with all the glory that will one day be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). Is this not something for which to be thankful too?

Oh, I want to be thankful by faith…today, tomorrow, and always!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Man (or Woman) of Few Words

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Prov. 17:27-28)

The man or woman who knows the most says the least—so says God. If this is the case, would it not be true that the man or woman who knows the least says the most? An observation we’re quick to apply to others more often than ourselves. Some may just naturally be more sparing of words than others, but few of us fall into that category, it would seem to me. No, from all appearances, a great host of us (and I do mean us) are not blessed with this natural inclination. On the contrary, for most of us, if one word, sentence, story, or lecture, is good, two (or more) is better!

         Proverbs has much to say about the tone and timing of our speech, but, as with other things in life, you can get too much of even a good thing; and I, who have had a love affair with words for many years now, need to be reminded regularly that it’s possible to handle a truth or an idea so much that there is a danger of it becoming, if not worn out, at least, wearing on others. Verses like these in Proverbs that are themselves so succinct, provide a warning for people like me. They are proof positive that words are effective, very often, in direct proportion to their economical use. Real wisdom is portable, able to be carried handily through life.

I’ve heard the first half of verse twenty-eight paraphrased something like this: “It’s better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt!” And that’s true. We are only considered fools for the foolish things we say, not the foolish thoughts we have.

There is a companion verse to these found in Proverbs 29:11, where we read, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but the wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” In other words, there are things that definitely need to be said, but a wise man will keep it to himself till later. After what? Any number of things. Perhaps there are things that should not be said till passions have cooled, other events have transpired, or possibly, even not till after a death. Hold it in, says Solomon, like something that is trying very hard to escape (like a rising, offensive burp, perhaps?). Even if you have to bite your tongue, clench your teeth, or put your hand over your mouth—whatever it takes—hold your peace “till afterwards.”

One of the great benefits of talking less is that it gives us the opportunity to hear more. We should remind ourselves often that there is a wealth of knowledge we will never know as long we spend all our time telling what we do know. It would be good to ask ourselves at the end of each day, “What did I learn from someone else today?” Sadly, many of us would have to admit we never gave anyone else the chance to teach us.

These words, like so many that I write, stare back at me accusingly from the computer screen. I share them with you, not from a lofty height, but from a lower deck. But they are true, all the same, and they need to be said. Remember the little children’s rhyme:
A wise old owl sat in an oak;
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Don't Forget Your Wings!

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” – Isaiah 40:31

         Did you know that grasshoppers have two sets of wings? You may not have even known they have one set, because they use them so seldom. It takes something like a menacing predator to drive them high in the air. For the most part, they’re satisfied to go on foot or skillfully hop to their destinations. This may be all right for grasshoppers, but it won’t suffice for “winged creatures” such as you and me.

         Isaiah says we have wings, and not just ordinary ones. We have wings like an eagle. For instance, I have read, “The wings of an eagle are a miracle in lightweight design. A female Bald eagle can have wings that are over 8 feet long ­– and yet weigh less than 2 pounds…Pound for pound, and eagle wing is stronger than the wing of an airplane.” (Read Deuteronomy 32:11.)

         So why then do you and I find ourselves so often dragging our Spiritual feet, defeated and deflated, as though we were earthbound creatures? Yes, we must walk; and yes, we must run; but we also can fly. In fact, we can mount above this earth’s atmosphere all the way to God’s celestial sphere at any given moment, where we’re able to sit in the presence of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:6), renewing our strength and restoring our souls. Then…then we can return, refreshed for the battle.

         So walk, run; hop, if you will, on the rough road of life. But, O, child of God, don’t ever forget your wings!

“My religious organs have been ailing for a while past. I have lain a sheer hulk in consequence. But I got out my wings, and I have taken a change of air!” – Anonymous

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Enough is Enough

“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4)

Elijah had suffered deprivation, ostracism, and threats. He had challenged and vanquished four-hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal, and was now literally running for his life. In verse four of Kings nineteen, exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, he drops down under a juniper tree and tells God, “I’ve had enough; kill me now and get it over with.”

It may be true that people who possess an intense, driven personality like Elijah’s are more prone to crises than others, but it’s also true that all of us can reach a point in our lives where we feel the circumstances are beyond our control and, and more importantly, our capacity to withstand them has reached its limit. To point to other saints who have endured far worse is an exercise in futility, however, since it sets a standard unattainable by some and perhaps minimal for others. To look to other Christians for instruction and inspiration is beneficial, but comparing ourselves to one another is a sure sign of spiritual immaturity (2 Cor.10:12). “Enough” is not an exact measurement. It’s simply “as much or as many as required.” The only question is, by whom? You and I must decide who will set the “enough” point ­­– God or us.

We may have a hint, though, from these words of Jesus in Matthew 10:25, “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” Does this mean that until we have suffered as He suffered, we will never be good enough? No, but it does mean He is the only One who has the right to determine the extent of our capabilities. Jesus Christ did only what the Father asked Him to do—no more, no less. “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do.” And by doing so, He was able to say, “I have glorified thee on the earth” (Jno.17:4).

Just think; if God had answered his prayer, Elijah would have missed his spectacular carriage ride to Glory! One thing is certain. If it’s God’s will for you and I to do what we’re doing – or endure what we are enduring ­­– God is the only One who can say when enough is enough. We will not need to ask Him to deliver us, as Elijah did; He’ll do it in His own time and in His own way. He will be glorified, and that will be enough!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Companion in Tribulation

 “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation…” (Rev. 1:9)

         Is there a difference between a friend and a companion? I think so, not that both cannot be found in the same person. One denotes the quality of a relationship, the other, its accessibility. The word, “companion” comes from two ancient French words: “com” (with) and “panis” (bread). It’s a “fellow, mate, friend, or partner”; literally, “bread fellow.” In other words, it’s someone with whom we keep close, immediate company. The Bible bears this out in Proverbs 13:20: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” It’s important to choose the right companions because they soon label you. David chose his wisely, and so should we. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psl. 119:63).

         But what of the “companion in tribulation”? George Morrison (1866-1928) observed that when someone has known us in adversity, he or she has known us as we really are. That’s why companions who remain, and friends who stand true, during times of unspeakable fears, unanswerable questions, and unbearable pain are priceless treasures in our lives. The Apostle Paul knew what it was to have to stand alone before a judge, forsaken by all (2 Tim. 4:16); but he also had those like Luke, willing to minister to the needs of the outlaw Paul, and others like Onesiphorus, who the old man referred to as “not ashamed of my chain” (2 Tim. 1:16). Thank God for those among us who dare to be companions in tribulation, unflinching in (seemingly) questionable times, refusing to take the easy way out, like rats leaving a sinking ship.

         But there may, and often does, come a point when all human consolation and sympathy is denied us. When Paul stood alone before that hostile judge, he was careful to tell us, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me…” (2 Pet. 4:17). And when you and I reach that point where the faces of those so dear to us are removed, for one reason or another, the One who was there all the time, becomes visible to our eyes of faith. Like the Old Testament story of the three Hebrew Children in Daniel three, there comes a fourth Man in the fire, who keeps it from consuming us. He is our Companion in Tribulation!

                        Then the Lord Stood By Me!

When I met with storm and trial and my heart was filled with fear,
When there was no one around to speak a word of help or cheer,
When I met defeat and failure and my courage ebbed away,
When it seemed my life was useless and I found it hard to pray;

When my earthly friends forsook me and they all misunderstood,
When my works they took for evil, tho I meant them all for good,
When I walked the vale of sorrow and my heart was aching sore,
When I faced a dark tomorrow with no ray of hope before;

Then the Lord Himself stood by me,
And I had no cause to fear;
Yes, the Lord Himself stood by me!
All was changed, really changed,
All was changed when He drew near.

                - John W. Peterson