Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On Being a Smooth Stone

"And he [David] took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine."  (1 Samuel 17:40)

Why did young David choose smooth stones for his sling? From minimal research I found out that smooth stones sail through the air faster and straighter than rough, jagged ones, which tend to curve unpredictably. How do rough stones become smooth ones? Geologically speaking, this happens through a process called "tumbling," which is "usually accomplished by transportation of the stone by water and contact with other rocks." Of course, Job knew this, thousands of years earlier (Job 14:19a).

If I might, I'd like to take the liberty of drawing an analogy here. If God wanted, as David did, to defeat His enemy using you and me "as lively stones" (1 Pet. 2:5), would He want us to be smooth or jagged, do you think? If the former, then that will require two things: water (Eph. 5:26), and "contact with other rocks." And not necessarily the gentle tapping kind, either. In fact, I would imagine the rougher the encounter, the quicker the smoothing process.

Maybe you're like me. There are people, even other believers, who just "rub you the wrong way?" As someone has pointed out, only hard things can wear out hard things. Maybe we should look at these people in a whole different way. Instead of seeing them as irritating nuisances sent by Satan to sabotage our Christian life, maybe we should consider them as possible refining tools God is using to make us more proficient instruments of battle in the good fight of faith, helping us to fly farther, faster, and more accurately.

To quote John the Baptist’s first sermon, “…the rough ways shall be made smooth” (Luke 3:4); and my prayer is that the Lord will make my own rough edges smooth. It may be painful, but by His grace, I want to be a "smooth stone" in the hand of God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Words of Comfort

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

I don’t think I have ever heard this verse commented on unless some eschatological topic was being considered. This is understandable, I suppose, since the return of Jesus Christ to this earth is taught here; though not with all the detail that is sometimes ascribed to it, I may add. Actually, the question that prompted these words by Paul was whether or not we will ever see our departed loved ones again (v.13). And his answer was, “Yes, indeed.” Whatever may go on between now and then, of this we can be sure.

What words in this passage (vv.13-18) bring you the most comfort? I can tell you the ones I want you to whisper in my ear when sickness, tragedy, heartache, or separation swirls around my head. They are these: “…and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Don’t show me charts and timetables when my heart is breaking. Remind me that the only appointment I’m sure of keeping is my rendezvous with Him. Impress me, if you will, with your predictions and your exegesis of obscure texts; but when I’m facing death, simply read to me the familiar Twenty-Third Psalm, and let David assure me again that one day, he and I shall “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

“So shall we ever be with the Lord” For my money, there are no more comforting words than these. For as the songwriter has said,

“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”

Monday, April 3, 2017

How Then Shall We Go? Finding the Path Ahead

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Romans 12:2

         It is possible to determine God’s good, perfect and acceptable will. It involves the mind and is learned, not hit upon. Paul calls it having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), which is why he told the Corinthian believers that he never stopped praying that they’d be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9). How do we find the way to go? Listen to the answer from God: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go…” (Psl. 32:8a).

         But not only do I have the authority of the Scriptures to prove this; I know it by experience. Any direction from God that has come to me in what seemed at the time to be “in a flash,” I realized later was the result of (in my case) sixty-five years of instruction by the Spirit of God through Word of God. For the most part, I have, as Henry Jowett said, to keep my soul “porous toward the Divine, ” so that now I am more able to immediately eliminate what God has explicitly forbidden and allow the Holy Spirit to bring back to my mind those things He has taught me about the character of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the instruction by the human authors of the Word of God under the direct inspiration of God.

         The wise men found the way to go, the path ahead to the newborn King, by travelling at night. Otherwise they would not have been able to see the star that stood over where He lay. This may be true for us, as well. I have learned through this journey that it’s much easier to see the lights of home in the dark. It shines brighter than ever. In the meantime, by God’s grace, I intend to marinate in the presence of God through His Word and prevailing prayer. And keep looking up.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dead End

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (Jam. 1:15)

“Every sin in our lives sets us up for the death of something; it’s a spiritual law.” Not too long after we had joined our church, the pastor drove home this truism to us one morning in a penetrating sermon. I jotted it down and put it away. Besides the death of the body, the end of sin’s road is eternal death in hell; and without Supernatural intervention, nothing will keep us from reaching our destination. It is a law as sure (and even more so) than any law of nature. There is nothing positive about sin. It is its own extreme. Because it is not only an offense to our own bodies, but an affront to God Almighty as well, sin—even the so-called “good ones”­—become “exceeding sinful,” according to Romans 7:13.

But sin deals a mortal blow to other things, as well. It’s a killer of joy, peace, reputation, trust, and hope, to name a few. It can dissolve a church, a friendship, or a marriage. Sin leeches spiritual strength like a slow leak in a tire, until life is flat and we find ourselves at a standstill. Often, it’s like high blood pressure: “the silent killer.” The overt sins that shock others and us are actually old secret sins, come to light. We can harbor them only so long in our bosoms until they belch forth into our active lives. And all of them—the ones we hide and the ones we flaunt—are dead ends of one kind or another.

James tells us the sequence of sin begins with inherent lust, goes through an experience of conception, and ends finally with a death. Of the three, the point at which intervention can take place is conception; and the trap is set during the period of lust: temptation. I leave you with this final warning…

“Toying with temptation will spring the trap.”

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Strength For the Battle

“For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle…” (Psalm 18:39a)

        In case you hadn’t noticed, life is a battle. And in our case, as children of God, the opposing forces are supernatural (Eph. 6:12). They may not look like the creatures in The Lord of the Rings, but they are every bit as menacing. When you and I strive to do right, there will always be someone or something, whether seen or unseen, trying to influence us in the opposite direction. Be it (unreasonable) reasoning, cajoling, or intimidation—every possible means will be brought to bear. Some of the battles will be ongoing; others will be decisive. Some will represent minor skirmishes, while others may escalate into bloody assaults. But the overall description of our Spiritual lives, whether it is victory or defeat, will depend upon the success of our battling.

        For this reason, God, in His infinite wisdom and love, has made provision for perpetual victory. We may not always experience it, but it is always at our disposal. One need not be strong-willed or even strong-minded, only strong in faith. You know, like the grain of the little mustard seed (Matt. 17:20). In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 12:9, the least endowed among us may be the most qualified to display the personification of strength. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Does this mean those of us designated as the “weaker vessel” (1Pet. 3:7) have an edge on spiritual strength? Just a thought.

         As I say, these Spiritual battles are life-long and hard-fought, and we should not be surprised that the bloodiest battle of all may be the last one. It was certainly true for our Lord. There comes a time when even a mighty warrior may hang up his armor in hopes of resting from battle, content to remember the glory. Has not the armor become rusty with use, as well as the warrior? No, we need have no fear in either case. Our text tells us that as long as the battle rages (all the way to the end), there will be strength, and so we can be assured, the needed armor (Philip. 4:19).

        This eighteenth Psalm makes it abundantly plain that the source of all this wonderful strength is the Lord God Almighty (vv.1-2, etc.); and we are exhorted to solicit His aid in every battle we face. All we have to do it tell Him we will provide the body, if He will provide the armor; we will engage the enemy, if He will strike the final blow. You and I have the option of going through this life victorious, from battle to battle, in His strength. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them… They go from strength to strength…” Psl. 84:5 &7

        With these “rules of engagement,” we can say with confidence, “[T]he Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Ha! 

John Henry Jowett (The Whole Armour of God) says of Romans 8:37  “…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors…” “To be more than conqueror is to be on the top of the old serpent, and, as (Robert) Browning says, to stand upon him and to feel him wriggle beneath your feet.”’