Saturday, April 30, 2016

Taking God's Place

"And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? (Gen.30: 2)

Some women are like Rachel. They seek from husbands or friends what only God can give. It was God who had closed her womb, yet it was Jacob who was the target of her castigation when she pleaded, "Give me children, or else I die." No wonder the man was so angry. There's nothing more infuriating than being vehemently compelled to do something beyond your ability. He showed his frustration by asking, "Do you expect me to take the place of God?"

It's a good question, and a fair one. Do I expect people around me to meet needs in my life that can only be met by God? For instance, who do I trust most with my most intimate secrets? Who sees the bulk of my tears? Who is the primary joy giver in my life? Who is the first to hear about it when I've been offended? Whose love is dearest of all to me; and who is the ultimate source of my guidance and security for the future? If the answer to any of these questions is anyone other than God, I'm asking that individual to take the place of God in my life. Our need to find relief from only someone we can “see” shows our lack of a consciousness of the presence of God in our lives.

Don't allow anyone in your life to take His place...for his or her sake, as well as your own. There is only one Source of ultimate satisfaction for all creation: The Hand of God.

"Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." (Psl. 145:16)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Songs That Witness Against Us

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.” (Deut. 31:19)

         We have children and grandchildren who are songwriters, so I’m familiar with the work that goes into it and have had the wonderful pleasure of hearing a new one for the first time. I love being able to say, “Oh, that will be a blessing to God’s people!” After all, that’s as it should be, right? Yes, unless you’re Moses, and God has (by Inspiration) given you one for the purpose of witnessing against His children. That’s what the verse says, does it not? And that’s exactly what Moses did (v. 22).

         When I read this, I began to think of songs I have sung through the years with a congregation or as a solo that I would have to say fall into just that category…songs that convict instead of comfort, reprove more than bless, and are more sobering than exciting. Oh, I’m like you; I love the songs and hymns that thrill my soul and make me want to clap my hands. But I fear there are times when I need my own mouth to condemn me. Music is (or should be) all about the message. At least, to my way of thinking. Here are a few songs that have “witnessed against me” through the years.

         The first, I am thankful to say, was not a song of conviction to my own heart because I was saved as a child, but I can tell you, those many, many years ago when I sang it to congregations in churches, a great stillness would come over the audience as the Spirit of God made it personal in hearts. I’m afraid there are few churches where I could sing it today. Pity.

I dreamed that the great judgment morning
Had dawned, and the trumpet had blown;
I dreamed that the nations had gathered
To judgment before the White Throne.
From the throne came a bright, shining angel,
And stood on the land and the sea,
And swore with his hand raised to heaven
That time was no longer to be.

     And, O, what a weeping and wailing
    As the lost were told of their fate.
   They cried for the rocks and the mountains;
   They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

Few songs move me to soul-searching as does this great old gospel song written by the son of slaves who taught himself to read at seventeen and put himself through seminary by being the janitor of a church in Philadelphia that he later pastored. Oh, how it still moves me!

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure -
Jesus is mine! There’s nothing between

Nothing between, like worldly pleasures:
Habits of life, tho harmless they seem;
Must not my heart from Him ever sever -
He is my all! There’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like pride or station:
Self or friends shall not intervene;
Tho it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved! There’s nothing between.

     Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
     So that His blessed face may be seen;
    Nothing preventing the least of His favor:
    Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

Finally, I could not leave out that great, old hymn of the church that questions the allegiance of each of us who name the name of Christ to His cause. Our older son knew every verse at the age of three or four, and, more than once, chose to sing it loudly as I wheeled him in a cart through the grocery (much to my consternation). Do these questions not convict us one and all?

Am I a soldier of the Cross? A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure, I must fight if I would reign – increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.

This has been longer than usual, but I wanted to share the words to these songs that have been used of God to “witness against” me and others. They’re seldom sung anymore and perhaps that’s one of the reasons the Church is anemic today in so many ways. Generally speaking, straight, powerful, Bible preaching is becoming more and more scarce, and so is heart-penetrating singing. May God send us a revival of both.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Storing Up Wrath

"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

There are some people — children and adults alike — who lament the fact that they never seem to be able to get away with things that others do. In the case of children, it indicates more loving, attentive parents; but in all cases, it represents the mercy of God. As this verse in Ecclesiastes teaches, left to ourselves, we are apt to take more and more liberty with sin in our lives.

To me, the verse bears a strange and alarming parallel to one found in Romans, chapter two. Paul, speaking to those who think they will escape the judgment of God because of His longsuffering and forbearance, warns them in verse five, "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath..." It's as if they’re "storing up" more and more wrath as time goes by, which is what the verse in Ecclesiastes is warning. When men are not punished for their sin immediately, they become even more "fully set to do evil," therefore building judgment upon judgment.

Sin, like a cancer, feeds upon itself, and grows rapidly and insidiously, if left unchecked. Our daily prayer to God should be, "Lord, deliver me from evil…and do it now! Those of us who call ourselves Christians but seem to be getting away with known sin should be reminded of something Charles Spurgeon said:

God never allows His children to sin successfully.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

He Listens In

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. ( Malachi 3:16)

         I was reading something recently by C.H. Spurgeon on a completely different subject, but in his discourse, he cited this verse in Malachai, commenting:

Christians grow rich by the exchange of spiritual commodities; and I am afraid some Christians are very poor because they do not engage in the spiritual bartering with one another. (‘They that feared the Lord spake often one to another…’ Mal.3:16).”

         The whole idea of “I’ll trade you this blessing for that blessing, or this truth for that truth” made me smile and thank the Lord again for the all-sufficiency of His Word to navigate the Christian life. God meant for His children to congregate (Heb. 10:25) and communicate. Christianity was never meant to be a solitary life. God may draw us aside from time to time for personal business that takes more than our regular times of fellowship with Him; but these are the exception, not the rule. I find no monks or hermits mentioned in Paul’s Epistles to New Testament saints. On the contrary, he was happy to name companions in the Faith who labored with him, telling of their encouragement, and His joy when he was reunited with them.

         The verse says those who feared the Lord spoke “often one to another.”  They were not speaking to God, yet the verse goes on to say, “…the Lord hearkened, and heard it…” He didn’t just happen to overhear their conversation; He made a point of listening in. They may not have been talking to Him, but they were talking about Him. God is not only interested in the things we say to Him, but the things we say about Him, as well. As a matter of fact, not only does He listen, He takes note of them. The verse goes on to say, He has them written down in a “book of remembrance.”  I’m sure the God of the Eternal Mind has no need to be reminded of anything, but it does tell us what He considers worth remembering.

         The two truths I take away from this precious verse today are these. First, I need you, my friend, as someone with whom I can exchange the things of the Lord, especially the wonder and power His mighty name. I need you to remind me that in these days of uncertainty and apostasy, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10). And by the grace of God, I’ll encourage you with words like “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him” (Psl. 34”9). And together we’ll roust the enemy and strengthen one another in the Faith.

         Second, I need to remember, not only can I gain the attention of my Heavenly Father by going to Him personally, but also by making mention of Him to others. He loves (and deserves) to be praised, not only to His face, but also “behind His back.” He’s listening in every time His name is magnified. Oh, may His holy name be ever and often on my lips is my prayer today!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The King of the Children of Pride

"He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride." (Job 41:34)

God takes an entire chapter of thirty-four verses to talk about a creature that defies imagination or explanation, like something from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. God calls him "leviathan." Biblical Creation apologist, Henry Morris, identifies it as the aquatic version of the great beast behemoth, described in chapter forty, far beyond a crocodile and obviously extinct. But verse thirty-four makes it clear this creature also symbolizes Satan, who is the personification—the king—of pride (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:11-19). The Bible has much to say about pride, and none of it good. Its association with this dreadful beast paints a devastating word picture of just how God sees it.

The Apostle John, in his first Epistle, tells us this world's system revolves around three obsessions: the lust of the flesh; the lust of the eye; and the pride of life. If something feels good, looks good, or makes you look good, then it is good, or so the world reasons. The pride of life manifests itself in many different ways. There are those who are proud of how well they are able to live, financially; others pride themselves in their outwardly moral lives. Still others derive great self-satisfaction from the social circles in which they move; and, yes, there are even those who fancy themselves as being humble. This, no doubt, is the worst pride of all.

Sadly, we are nearly always the last to discern pride in our own lives. For some reason, it's much more obvious in others. This is one of the many dangers of legalism; it's a breeding ground for pride. These are an ignominious bunch, these “children of pride,” with a truly monstrous king. You and I should be ever conscious of the danger of falling in with, or worse, becoming one of, them.

A Puritan cure for pride: “Remember; your father was Adam, your grandfather dust, and your great-grandfather nothing.” –William Jenkyn