Monday, December 5, 2016


“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy. (Psalm 107:2)

         The word, redeem, means to buy back or recover something. It assumes three things: 1) the object to be redeemed is in someone else’s possession; 2) some type of price or exchange is necessary to accomplish the redemption; and 3) the object has no means of redeeming itself, else it would not have been in bondage, in the first place.

         In this case, you and I were the objects in need of redemption, in bondage to our enemy, Satan, with no redeeming qualities of our own to call upon. And the price that was paid for the redemption of our souls and bodies (Eph. 1:7) far exceeded their worth. But then, love doesn’t look for a bargain.

         The great Baptist preacher, A.J. Gordon (1836-1895), once told the story of meeting a little boy carrying an old birdcage, containing several common field birds. Curious, Gordon asked the boy what he intended to do with the birds. “Oh, I guess I’ll just take ‘em home an play with ‘em for awhile,” came the reply. “Then what?” asked the preacher. “I guess I’ll just feed ‘em to the old cat we’ve got,” answered the boy. Impulsively, Gordon asked him how much he would take for the birds and the cage. This surprised the boy. “Mister, you don’t want these old birds. They can’t hardly sing at all.” But when Gordon offered him the outrageous sum of two dollars, he quickly took the money, saying, “It’s a deal, but you’re makin’ a bad bargain!” Gordon said that after the boy had gone, he opened the cage, letting the frightened, hesitant birds fly out; then he watched as they soared into the sky.

         The next Sunday, the preacher took the cage into the pulpit with him and told the story of the boy and the birds. He ended by saying, “That little boy said the birds couldn’t sing very well, but when I opened the cage and released them, they flew away singing. And it seemed to me the song they were singing was, ‘Redeemed! Redeemed! Redeemed?’”

         Today, I am as free as a bird out a cage, because of the blood-price of my redemption that was paid by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. The verse in Psalms says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”; and that’s just what I’m doing!

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,
Redeemed through His infinite mercy;
His child and forever I am.
                                             - Fanny J. Crosby 1820-1915

Monday, November 21, 2016

Is, Was, And Is To Come

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was, and which is to come.” (Revelation 1:8)

       Would it not seem more sequential to you if it read, “… which was, and which is, and which is to come”? Evidently not…at least, not to God. In fact, you will see the same order in verse four. You see, with God, everything starts with an “is.” When Moses recorded, “In the beginning God,” he was not talking about God’s beginning, but ours. Jehovah God exists in the eternal Present, the perpetual “Now.” It is such an innate part of Him, that He refers to Himself as the “I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

       God only speaks in terms of time for our benefit. Our lives are divided into minutes—the sixtieth part of an hour; but God sees these as moments—what we would think of as a brief coming together of circumstances that usually provide some kind of opportunity.

       Reason would tell us, therefore, that we should reflect this same order (“is, was, is to come”) in our own lives. Our primary concern should be the “is,” with proper respect for the “was,” and recognition of the “is to come.” I read once that the past is a clock that can only tell us what time it was, and the future is a calendar that only God can fill in with a permanent marker. Ah, but the present, on the other hand, has the power to refocus the past and re-establish the future, humanly speaking. It’s the only tool we have; but it’s all we need.

       We may not be the Great “I Am,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t follow His example, as well as that of the great Apostle; who did not say, “I am what I was,” or even, “I am what I will be”; but rather, “I am what I am by the grace of God.”

“Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?” — C.S. Lewis

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Now and Then

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

         This verse takes it for granted we will all endure some suffering in this life, and I don’t think any of us would disagree. There is nothing meritorious per se about suffering; but according to Philippians 3:10, it does qualify one for admission into a special club: “the fellowship of his [Jesus Christ’s] sufferings.” Not only that, Peter tells us it serves to “stablish, strengthen, and settle [us] (1Pet. 5:10). That couldn’t be too bad, could it?

         Still, these and other benefits do not readily come to mind while one is in the throes of an especially long and/or hard trial. In Paul’s case, his means of perspective was the little word “reckon.” He uses the same word in chapter six to give us a handle on achieving victory in our lives by reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God (6:11).

         One of the meanings for the word “reckon,” as found in the Oxford English Dictionary, is “to calculate, or keep count of, in relation to some starting point or base.” In other words, suffering must be judged against, or in relation to, something else. And Paul lets us know just what that something else is: “the glory that shall be revealed in us.” I’m not sure all that this entails, but I do know from the previous verse that it has to do with our being “joint-heirs with Christ,” and assumes we will share and share-alike with Him. If so, then in this case, the end truly does justify the means.

         I share these observations with you not to minimize any suffering you may be experiencing now, or will experience in the future, but simply to sharpen your “reckoner.” If anything, we women should understand this concept even better than men, since the prospect of finally seeing and holding in our hands the life that grew under our hearts is the overriding thought that gets us through the pain of childbirth. That’s exactly the principle Paul is trying to teach us.

          It’s not about the suffering now; it’s all about the glory then.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Night-Light

“…her candle goeth not out by night. – Prov. 31:18b

         Whenever I have had occasion to teach on the virtuous woman of Proverbs thirty-one, which, as you might imagine, has been often over my husband’s and my ministry together of over fifty-five years, I, like most others, have used this portion of her story to extol her work ethic. She rises early and stays up late ministering to her family, all the while running her household in a frugal and prosperous fashion. But I was recently challenged to read this particular portion of verse eighteen in a different light, no doubt for personal and pertinent reasons.

         No matter how decorative and festive a candle may be, the whole idea is to give light. Now, however, one of the most sought after by-products is a pleasant aroma that fills a room and sets a mood. But any old candle that will burn brightly is all we need when the sun isn’t shining, and all of our artificial means of light have been extinguished. Jesus said of you and me, “Ye are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14 & 16). This should give us an idea of how important “this little light of mine” is. It’s all about the glory of God.  But remember it says of the woman in Proverbs thirty-one, “her candle goeth not out by night.” Ah, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

         There used to be a saying, “The darker the night, the brighter the light.” A candle that may look faint and small in the light of day can shine with brilliance and glory in the blackest night. The time when it may be the hardest and the scariest to shine may be the greatest opportunity we will ever have to virtually “outshine” ourselves for His glory and honor.  And verse fifteen of this chapter tells us the most important candle is the one that gives light to “all that are in the house.”  In other words, it’s family who are the best judge of the quality of our candle and its light; and it is they to whom we owe this lasting legacy.

         What is the most important light in your house? Not the beautiful chandelier you may proudly own, or the bright lights around your bathroom mirror that help you look your best. No, it’s the little, insignificant night-light that keeps others from stumbling in the dark and shows us the way to go.

“Father, make me a night-light for You!”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Woman's Faith

“For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, and a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.”  Mark 7:25-26                                                                               

         I remember being in the company of a young woman who was asked why she stopped going to a certain church. Her answer had nothing to do with doctrine, morality, or even administration. No, she explained, it was just that the pastor said something from the pulpit that offended her. I thought to myself, “Dear girl, you wouldn’t have followed Jesus Christ very long.” (Maybe she should have read Psalm 119:165.) Someone who is quick to take offense is always a poor risk for a friend, and an unlikely prospect for a disciple. “Blessed is he,” said our Lord, “whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matt. 11:6).

         The woman in our story probably wouldn’t have been blamed had she taken offense at what Jesus said to her, but neither would she have received the petition she asked of Him, either. She came at a time when the Lord was hoping to have some time alone, or at least just with the disciples, but verse twenty-four says “[H]e could not be hid.” And this Gentile woman, driven by desperation, found Him. She had left a daughter at home who was uncontrollable because of an evil spirit that consumed her. When she saw Jesus, she cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil” (Matt. 15:22). It’s obvious she knew exactly who He was: He was the Lord, and He was heir to King David’s throne.

         It’s now that we see the first instance of what would seem to be rude and heartless behavior by Jesus. Matthew says, “[H]e answered her not a word” (15:23). But we will soon find out, He wasn’t trying to kill her faith; He was trying to kindle it.  She evidently turned then to the disciples, imploring them to intercede for her, because they, in turn, said to Jesus, “Send her away; for she crieth after us.” Then follows a pathetic dialogue that defies all rules of common courtesy. When He does speak, his first words to her are, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” To which she cries, piteously, “Lord, help me.” Then, to add insult to injury, it would seem, He adds, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs.”

         Of all the mean things Jesus could have said to her, this surely was the meanest (or so it would appear). “I was sent to those of the nation of Israel (of which you are not), so why should I take spiritual bread that belongs to the Jews, and give it to Gentile dogs (of which you are).” I doubt Jesus’ words would fit the criterion of “political correctness” in today’s world! But in reality, Jesus was not only testing her faith, He was providing her a rebuttal, if she was wise enough to see it. And, God be praised, she was.

“Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the masters’ table,” was the quick reply. Instead of leaving in a huff, she immediately picked up the idea of Jesus’ terminology and reasoned, “You don’t have to be one of the family to get bread, if you’re willing to take crumbs—and I am.” Her words were what got her what she wanted. Jesus said so in Mark 7:29), and faith gave her the courage to say them.  

This Syrophenician was a woman resolved. She refused to let a rebuff and offensive language dishearten her from her holy purpose.  She was a woman of reason. She was spiritually minded and quick-witted enough to challenge the God-Man, who said in the Old Testament, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isa. 1:18).  And, eventually, she was a woman rewarded. The Man who had seemingly done so much to discourage her, ended his conversation with these words of hope and cheer: “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matt. 15:18).

It would seem to me, this woman can teach us all we need to know about faith...and O, how we need to know about faith! I know I need it more today than I ever have before.

Faith sees the invisible, believes the impossible
Receives the incredible, no matter what was;
Faith moves the unmovable, proves the un-provable;
For anyone willing to trust,
Believe and you’ll see what faith does.

                          Donna Brooks, Marty Funderburk, Scott Wilemon

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hasty Moves

Beware of a life of fitful impulse; live and act on sustained principles.

I read these words somewhere, with no recognition of who said them. I was especially impressed by the contrast between "fitful impulse" and "sustained principles." It makes a very stark comparison, doesn't it? Impulse is not all bad, of course. Sometimes it’s called for in order to take advantage of a passing opportunity; and, indeed, there are times when failing to act with haste can be positively disastrous. Still, it cannot be denied that haste always carries with it the dimension of chance. It's certainly possible to make a wrong decision after much deliberation, but it's more probable without any at all.

Several Scriptures immediately come to mind. For instance, Isaiah 28:16b tells us, "[H]e that believeth shall not make haste." One of the great earmarks of a strong faith is the ability to wait. It's tempting to make a move before one is called for, when it seems as though nothing is happening. We would do well to follow Naomi's advice to Ruth: "Sit still my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall..." (Ruth 3:18). God says in Isaiah 52:22, "For ye shall not go out with haste...for the LORD will go before you..." You see the obvious danger here, don't you?

But not only can we move in haste, often we speak with very little forethought, as well. David admits in Psalm 31:22, "For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes..." His first impulse during a difficult time in his life was to strike out, even against God. Bitterness is a terrible thing to harbor, but it's even worse to speak under its influence. God says of someone who is hasty in his words, “…there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 29:20).
In addition, haste often leads to exaggeration. For example, the Psalmist says in Psalm 116:11, "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Well, it is true that there is not a man or woman who has not at one time or another told a lie. But it's also true that "all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire." So, if all men are liars, we're all sunk! It's very easy to make broad, sweeping statements before thinking them through.

There's a time to make haste; and there's a time to make sure. Be sure you know the difference.