Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Wise Woman

Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you unto Joab, come near hither, that I may speak with thee.” (2 Samuel 20:16)

      Second Samuel twenty is a violent chapter, filled with sedition and murder. Because of Absalom’s rebellion, the men of Israel and Judah were preparing to war among themselves. But in the midst of all this, we read of a lone “wise woman” who comes from out of nowhere, seemingly, with words of wisdom and reason for King David’s commander-in-chief, Joab, who is on the verge of acting upon an impulsive rage. You can read all the particulars in the rest of the chapter; but, suffice it to say, just as Abigail kept David from doing something he would have regretted later, this unnamed woman helped to bring temperance and reason to the inflamed Joab.

       I wonder, do you and I bring calm to a highly charged situation, or do we add fuel to the fire? When questionable decisions are being made in haste, do we jump on the bandwagon (maybe even pushing it ourselves), or do we quietly suggest that everyone catch their breaths and take a longer look? Do those around us feel driven to act quickly, or do they find themselves more inclined to make deliberate, well thought out moves?

       If, in each of these examples, we fall into the second category, you and I may one day find ourselves being referred to as a wise woman also. In the end, I cannot help but think what we do ourselves is no more important than what those within our sphere of influence are encouraged to do. After all, we’re only one. Matthew 11:19 tells us that “wisdom is justified of her children.” In other words, wisdom—or the wise woman—is vindicated by the lives of those who follow after her, those who act wisely themselves because of her inspiration.

       Oh, Spirit of God, make me like that wise woman!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

One Of A Kind

 “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” – Eph. 1:10

Jesus Christ is one of a kind. He is not a man among men; He is THE Man among men. He is not first among equals; He has no equals.

Yesterday was the birthday of one of my grandsons, and in my birthday greeting to him, I pointed out that he has a brand new year in which to glorify God and brag about Jesus. I thought about this later in the day, and it was as if the Holy Spirit said to me, “How about you; when was the last time you “bragged” about Him? I remembered then that I had jotted down a few notes along this line months ago, but hadn’t done anything else with them. So here’s my attempt to “put my money where my mouth is,” and heed my own admonition.

Jesus Christ is the Incarnate God: He claimed it of Himself (Jno. 10:30) and was declared to be a blasphemer worthy of death because of it (Matt. 27:63-66). Others said it of him (Matt.16:16; Col.2:14-17); Devils knew it (Luke 4:41); and God, the Father, verified it (Mark 9:1-8). You and I, as believers, are called “sons of God,” but He is the only One “begotten of the Father” (Jno. 1:14). You and I are begotten into the Kingdom of God by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1Pet. 1:3); but we were born into this world with earthly fathers.  Jesus Christ had no earthly father. He was born into this world by His heavenly Father. He’s One of a kind.

Jesus Christ is the All-Sufficient Savior: He came into this world to save us and it (1 Tim. 1:15; 1Jno. 4:14). And if we ever thought anyone else could take His place, God put that to rest when he inspired Luke to record Peter’s words in Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” But not only is He the Savior of the soul, He is the Savior of the body. Romans 8:11 gives us the promise that the Spirit of Christ that raised Him from the dead works just as mightily within our bodies and will one day do the same for us. And in the meantime, during these days of sickness and pain, my mind has been directed to the words in Isa. 53:5: (…with his stripes we are healed.” And it is to Jesus Christ, God the Son that my heart cries out to in times of suffering and pain, He who is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities.” Oh, yes, as an all-sufficient Savior of both soul and body, He is One of a kind!”

Finally, Jesus Christ is the Undying Friend: We sometimes say that about others, but it’s only true of Him. Our friends and loved ones who knew the Lord and are in Heaven with Him, are alive and well, but they are “dead” to us, in that we can no longer communicate or fellowship with them. But this is not true of Jesus. The Son of God, whose servants we are, has deemed to call us “friends” (John 15:15). He intercedes with the Father on our behalf (Heb. 7:25; 9:24); He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5); and He, the Word of God, has given us His infallible written Word, as well as His Spirit within us to guide and comfort us. He will not, He cannot, die. He is our only undying Friend. He is surely One of a kind.

There. I’ve bared my soul. I’ve tried to exalt Him as best I can…today. But it’s so lacking, so small, so inadequate. I won’t stop trying. He’s the Man, Christ Jesus; He’s One of a kind; and He’s my kind of Man.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

God Is For Me!

“When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know: for God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9)

        The very nature of conflict dictates that there are two opposing sides; and if the Bible teaches anything, it is that life is a battle, a war of right against wrong, good versus evil. Some of these battles are thrust upon us, but a few of them we must initiate ourselves for the sake of conscience. Sometimes we are engaged in full-scale combat, while at other times, it’s mere skirmishes that occupy us. They’re both important, and a wise individual knows the difference between the two.

        David was a man of war, and whether fighting a lion or a bear or the enemies of Israel, he was always on the right side. Therefore, he knew God was with him. He says, without hesitation, “God is for me.” He was for God, and so God was for him.

        Remember when we were kids and we played competitive games with two or more teams? There was always the inevitable (and agonizing) choosing up of sides. If the captains of the teams took turns choosing players, it was always assumed they would choose the best players first; which meant, of course, that the poorest players were chosen last. I know how that feels.

        I’m glad God doesn’t fill His “team” roster that way. Even though He knew I wouldn’t be the best player in the battle of life, He chose me first. Me! For some reason known only to Him, He just wanted me on His side (John 15:16). And I wanted to be on His—the winning side. My part in the great battle may be small…but I’m on the winning side; I may get wounded…but I’m on the winning side; I may lose a few campaigns…but I am on the winning side!

        Any way you say them, David’s words are awesome:

GOD is for me!    God is FOR me!    God is for ME!    Amen, Amen, Amen!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Two Lessons From a Young Man

“Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.” – Job 32:4

I’m sorry; I like this boy. I like the fact that he waited until the old men had spoken, when he was ready to burst with what he wanted to say (v. 18-19). I like the way he recognized that "multitude of years should speak wisdom." I realize that later on he gets a little bombastic and carried away with the sound of his own voice; but, by and large, I think he handles himself fairly well in the company of these older men. (I notice that in the last chapter, God rebukes Job's other three friends, but not Elihu.)

+ God’s Word or Just My Opinion? +

“And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young,
and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine 
opinion." (Job 32: 6)

The first thing that recommends him to me is that he understands what he is about to say is his opinion. Three times in this chapter he uses the term, "mine opinion." (The word is only used in one other place in the Bible.) The fact that he is willing to acknowledge his words are not etched in stone is commendable.

It’s important in life to be able to distinguish between "Thus saith the Lord" and our own opinions. The latter do not, and should never, carry the same weight as the plain teaching of the Word of God. To put my opinions on the same plane as God's, is to trivialize the Bible and make me an authority unto myself—and, worse, others. There are enough enumerated sins and plain directives in the Word of God to keep us straight. We need not try to make a holy principle out of what is only a subjective opinion. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote,  Call your opinions your creed, and you will change them every week. Make your creed simply and broadly out of the revelation of God, and you will keep it to the end.”

+ How Shall I Repent? +

"Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend anymore: That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more." (Job 34: 31-32)

The boy’s right again; surely this is the way to approach God when we have sinned. Repentance is a lost art, I think. So few of us are very good at it, no doubt, because we've had so little practice. We're quick to lay hold on Psalm 103:14 ("For He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."), but much slower to acknowledge Ezekiel 18:30 ("Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin."). There are so many extenuating circumstances to our sin that by the time we're through voicing them, we almost appear blameless. Even Adam and Eve, without parents (today's common scapegoat), still found some place else to shift the blame.

Elihu may have been self-righteous and self-assured, but he did have a knack for getting to the point: "Show me my sin, and I won't do it anymore." How simple and straightforward is that? Not, "Work with me on this, God; you know my temperament and background and how threatening authority can be to me." (I'm rolling my eyes.) We can never hope to experience forgiveness and cleansing till we are willing to come clean with God. He’s not looking for penance, but He does expect penitence. Repentance is not just being sorry for our sin; it’s being sorry enough to quit.

Have I been able to revise your opinion somewhat of this long-winded young man (chap. 32-37), One thing is true: he did know how to brag about His God! But one way or the other, take these two questions his words generated in my own mind and let them speak to your heart. Truth is truth no matter who speaks it…or how old he or she may be.                                                                                                                        
“…And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye not read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”  - Matt. 21:16