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.