Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tying One On

Yesterday in church, our pastor's sermon contained an object lesson.  At the beginning of the sermon, which was on sharing our faith, some helpers passed out to everyone a small "baggie" with a leather strand and a few colored beads in it.  During the course of the sermon he had us assemble a bracelet by stringing the colored beads onto the leather in a certain order.  The purpose of making this "church craft" was to give each of us a tangible witnessing tool.  When we finished making our "bracelet", the final step was to "tie it on".  (Personally, I am going to attach mine to my wallet, so that I will have it with me most of the time I am "out and about".)


Now, in order to use this tool effectively, you need to share Scripture verses, which each bead represents.1

In the course of the sermon, he told a story, which I will endeavor to somewhat recreate, albeit badly, ... for sure.  If you want a more official version, Wikipedia is waiting for you.  I'll post the link in the Sources section.2

Anyway, the story goes something like this.  This man, a "nobody" really, would go up to people on the street and ask them this:  "Are you saved?  Are you sure that, if you died today, you would go to Heaven?"  Depending on their reaction he would sometimes talk to them further.  Other times, he would walk away, leaving them thinking.  Rather direct.  Rather simple.  But, his direct and simple approach caused many, many people to ponder deeply his question.  And, unbeknownst to this lover of Jesus Christ, a Mr. Frank Jenner, many followed up with Christian clergy and came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

An English evangelist, one Francis Dixon, who had heard many people speak of this "little, old white-haired man" on George Street in Sydney, Australia, who had changed their lives, went to find this influential man.  He found him, in his fifties by this time.  It was the evangelist's pleasure to share with the man, whose name was Frank Jenner, how many thousands upon thousands of lives he had touched...without even knowing it.   Because, you see, those he spoke to directly, after choosing to accept and follow Jesus, impacted many, many more, sometimes thousands more.

Mr. Jenner had had no idea how far-reaching his obedient efforts to share the gospel had been.

Nor do we.

We are not responsible to keep up with the results of our sharing our faith to those who do not know Jesus as Savior.  We are merely commanded to do it.

There are three instances in Proverbs where readers are enjoined to "bind" God's Word to various body parts.  Here they are!  Proverbs 3:3. 6:21; 7:3.  Check the last one out:

Bind them on your forearm;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 7:3 NET

The Pharisees took these words quite literally, constructing small leather boxes called phylacteries, which they then bound to their foreheads and left arms.  Inside each little box were passages of Scripture, written on small pieces of parchment.

Sounds rather extreme to our modern-day Christian culture.  But, maybe not.  Maybe we need to wear our faith on our sleeve more.  Perhaps then it we would be more prepared and less hesitant about sharing it.

Mr. Jenner's method may not be the one God leads all of us to.  But, regardless of the method, let's "tie one on."


Sources:

1    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/89/e2/1f/89e21fcd90bf5bf0eae59a052a02f5df--older-kids-crafts-bead-crafts-for-kids.jpg

2    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Jenner

Thursday, August 10, 2017

50th Birthday


Last night, during the meeting of our discipleship group, we took some time to share our personal experiences of how we came to know Jesus.  One thing I noticed was that each of us spoke of a moment when "the light came on" for us, in our souls.  We truly SAW Jesus clearly - - - what He had done for us, and our inescapable need for Him.  Not a single one of us mentioned peer pressure or feeling rushed by others to make that life-altering decision.  Interesting, yes?

In reflecting on my own salvation experience, I realized that this month is my 50th "spiritual birthday".  The day I decided to follow Jesus was in August, 1967, when nine years old.  The apostle Paul describes that initial decision to follow Jesus as "putting on Christ" in the King James Version of Galatians 3:27.  I like the English Standard Version too.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

We are currently studying in Proverbs, though, and here is the main text for today:


Bind them on your heart always;

tie them around your neck.
22When you walk, theyd will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

Proverbs 6:21-23 ESV

Admittedly, this passage is part of a larger passage of exhortations from the writer about avoiding the sin of adultery.  In a larger sense, though, these words speak to me about the resplendent walk.

The Christian's salvation is not a one-time experience.  The decision to follow Christ secures eternal life in Heaven with the Savior, but it is not the "end point'.  The decision, though eternal, is called "the new birth" for a reason.  Birth implies that there is a life to follow that birth.  The initial decision, then, is only the beginning of the relationship.  I have now had the tremendous pleasure of walking with Him for 50 years, and I look forward to so many more with Him --- years which cannot even be numbered.  While my remaining years here on Earth may be few, they are the merest blip on a radar screen, compared to eternity.

Here in today's passage, though, we see the prescription for walking well with Him.

1.  The first step of the journey is to clothe ourselves with Christ, and that includes putting on the wisdom of His ways, as revealed in the Bible.  Goodness knows, in our American culture, we have a dizzying array of choices in how to dress ourselves, both with physical garments as well as with life philosophies.  But, "putting on Christ" involves tying around our necks His precepts and commands for righteous living.
2.  Verse 21 goes beyond putting Christ's commands around the neck though.  It goes deeper, to binding them to the heart.  You know, the outward appearance can be deceptive, a distraction even; it's what's in a person's heart that truly defines who (and Whose) he/she is.
Oh Christian!  Studying God's Word is SO crucial!!
We find Jesus Christ's ways revealed in God's Word, the Bible.  It is the "final word", against which all other "spiritual writings" must be measured.  I enjoy reading and listening to various theologians and self-described prophets interpret and prognosticate.  However, I always measure their insights and claims against the unshakeable, immovable Word of God.  This is extremely important.

Otherwise, I might find myself wearing an Easter bonnet with my pajamas....that is, I would not be appropriately "clothed", not "dressed for success", as the 1980's expression went. (The elderly will understand, lol!)

I read a passage on Facebook this morning from a Christian friend.  Here is what she said:

The Lord is after something far more valuable than you being a success, as this world defines it. He is after you being the man or woman He created you to be. If we trust in Him, keep His word, and live our lives for His pleasure, He'll give us the power we need - power to fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith.

She has paraphrased verse 22 from today's text so well!  Christians should not be seeking after success as the world defines it, because that type of success often runs contrary to the Word of God and, in fact, leads us away from an ever-deepening relationship with our Savior.  The relationship of Savior to Child should be the one which supersedes any and all others, the pre-eminent relationship that endures forever.

Lord Jesus, I reckon You aren't finished with me yet or that I've not yet finished the work You have created me to do.  Thank you for Your incomparable salvation, extended to me.  I'm not, nor will I ever be, worthy of Your great love.  Thank you for these 50 years of relationship walking with You (and especially for the times you carried me).  I can think of nothing more wonderful than being with You either here or in Heaven for many more.  Amen.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Holier Than Thou" Perfume


I was sad to learn recently of a former student who, despite having a "heart of gold", lost his way and died of a drug overdose.  Due to the overprescription of opiate painkillers, not to mention the prevalence of illegal drug use in our society generally, these types of tragedies are becoming all too common.

When you hear similar news of someone you know . . . what is your response?

For many of us, in our "heart of (carnal) hearts" the first response is one of a condescending comparison.

"I am so glad my child would never do that.  I raised her better than that.  What in the world could the parents of that child have been thinking to have allowed that?"  

And so forth...
Sound familiar?
God help us, sometimes we even SAY those pernicious, hateful, evil things to others, while feeling so GOOD about it!

{Peeeeyuuuuuh!  (Pyuh!  Pee-you!) . What a stench!}

The Bible calls this heart attitude, this response, "haughty eyes".  Take a look ;)

16There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Proverbs 6:16-19

Notice that "haughty eyes" are the first on the list.  Another word for that phrase might be ... pride, of the sinful variety.

It is one thing to enjoy a quiet pride, a feeling of gratitude for what God has done for you and in your life.  This is a pride firmly grounded in humility and thankfulness.
It is quite another to compare ourselves with others, looking down on them with condescension.

What do YOU hate?  Consider the visceral, overwhelming disgust you feel for ... whatever it is. Generally speaking, it is different for each of us.

I'll tell you what all Christians ought to hate - - - and that is what God Himself hates.  If we are seeking to align our hearts more with His, should we not align our loves and our hates with His also?
(Clue!  He doesn't just hate other humans' sins.  He hates ours too!)
If we believe this, we need to begin by cultivating a deadly hate for our own sinful pride.

Some1 have called haughty eyes "the gateway sin".  Why?

I think it is because pride can creep into your life before you know it. Pride is the chief pitfall for the Christian who is walking in holiness before the Lord.  Satan plants a thought in our minds that says, "Look how good you are!", for example.  And, before long, we begin to believe it!  We, accordingly, begin to trust more in ourselves and in our own abilities than we do in our only hope, in the only Savior. Consequently, because we are then so "full of ourselves", trusting in our own abilities, we fall prey to all sorts of other sins.

Galatians 6:4-5 The Message says this:

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

I blogged in more depth on these verses here:
http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-entanglement-of-comparisons.html

May God save us from being overly impressed with ourselves!  There's a lot of truth in this old saying: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."2

As my brother in the Lord, @stevengberman recently said, in a piece about Chris Pratt and Anna Farris:
"The 'holier than thou' perfume stinks to high heaven!"3

Sources:

1   https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/haughty-eyes-jeffrey-sims-sermon-on-pride-180365

2   http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/there-but-for-the-grace-of-god.html

3   http://theresurgent.com/in-separating-from-his-wife-chris-pratt-is-being-a-faithful-christian/

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lying Around


Have you ever thought about what a marvel sleep is?  I think of it as God's way of turning off the human machine, so that it can recharge.  In addition, sleep cleanses the human mind and the body, down to the cellular level.  Amazing!  Scientists have not yet determined all that occurs when we sleep.

There is such a thing as getting too much of a good thing, however.  One of the signs of depression, for instance, is sleeping too much of the time.  Sleep becomes an escape or avoidance mechanism, keeping the sick person from dealing with the real world.  Too much sleep is also a symptom of laziness, although I think that "lying around" might be a more apt description of what the scriptures intend in Proverbs 6:6-11(ESV)


6Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.


This is not to pick on modern ways at all; but, if we are honest, we will admit that "work" has changed a great deal in the past 50 years.  A huge amount of work has been transferred from the physical realm into the world of cyberspace, something King Solomon knew nothing about.  I don't think anyone would call the person who works at home in front of his computer "lazy" or as the Bible puts it "being a sluggard".  It is merely a different method of earning a living.

However, with the cyberworld at our fingertips (literally), it is seductive to jump into that world for pleasure's sake, when we should be doing something more productive.  Let's go back to the topic of sleep for a moment.

The human body is designed to wake with the morning light and to "head for the recharger" (the bed) shortly after dark.  God has given us the ability to manipulate that natural sleep cycle.  And, those who "work 3rd shift", for example in convenience stores and hospitals and factories, do so by necessity.  Huge kudos to them for their sacrifices!  Often, they do not get 8 hours of interrupted sleep, simply because they are trying to sleep while the rest of the world is up and about.  It's a huge challenge.

But, often (and honestly, this can occur via a good book, or even excessive knitting{!} so not picking on "technology" here) - - - we use our technology as an escape from other responsibilities, spending hours playing online games, immersing ourselves in virtual worlds, when that time could be put to much better use.  Often, we cheat our sleep to do this, and that is not only mentally unhealthy, we can reap negative consequences in our physical health.

All that being said, there are "morning people" and "night people".  As biological units (unique creations of the Master Creator, Jesus Christ), we usually figure out into which camp we fall. Furthermore, some of us need 8-10 hours of sleep each night in order to feel good and function at optimum performance.  Others, like my brother-in-law, can function perfectly well, thank you, on 4-5.  (I know you don't believe that, and it IS rare; but, he is in excellent health and has been doing this by his own choice for decades....)

God's creation is not perfect.  It became broken by sin, beginning in the Garden of Eden.  When Man fell, so did creation, and it has been "groaning" ever since (Romans 8:22).  Still, God's creation is pretty doggone marvelous!  You don't find many indolent, lazy ants, or bees (the Septuagint includes the example of industrious bees in vs. 11 of today's passage), or eagles or squirrels.  If they did not obey their God-ordained impulses to prepare for lean times, they would not survive!

The same scriptural principle applies to us as well.  If we spend all we have on the immediate, not saving for "a rainy day".... If we waste our health, not caring for it so that latter years can be enjoyed ... if we squander opportunities God puts in our path daily ... if we neglect our prayer life and Bible study ... will we then be prepared for when those times of testing and trial come?  No.  We won't.

So, I am going to think about this some more today and try to think more proactively, to use my time more wisely, to prepare for my future more intelligently, so that I can be of ultimate use to the Lord for as long as He allows me to remain here.   Here's one final thought....

The best "prep" or investment is in God's kingdom, serving others according to the spiritual gifts and earthly resources He has provided.  The ant, after all, worships God by doing what He created her to do and doing it with passion!  What a joy when each of us, God's own beloved children, can say and do the same!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Overpromising

The book of Proverbs could be subtitled, "How Not to Be Foolish" or "How to Have Common Sense".

In today's installment, we are examining the phenomenon of "overpromising".
Have you ever done that?

My family would say that I am a woman of action.  I love to "do things".  I am happiest when my calendar is full, when I'm engaged in meaningful activities.  Add to that - - - I am a "forest person", not a "tree person".  If you want to make me unhappy, force me to "count beans" or to focus on details.  I'm a visionary, not one to love "the fine points".

All of this is a prescription for "overpromising"!

If there is an exciting project with potential positive impact for Jesus Christ's kingdom, I'm ready to jump in with both feet!

Enough about me ... what about you?  Do you "overpromise"?

1My child, if you have made a pledge for your neighbor,
and have become a guarantor for a stranger,
2if you have been ensnared by the words you have uttered,
and have been caught by the words you have spoken,
3then, my child, do this in order to deliver yourself,
because you have fallen into your neighbor’s power:
go, humble yourself,
and appeal firmly to your neighbor.
4Permit no sleep to your eyes
or slumber to your eyelids.
5Deliver yourself like a gazelle from a snare,
and like a bird from the trap of the fowler.
Proverbs 6:1-5 (NET)

Specifically, this passage hones in on making inappropriate promises about financial matters - - -

  • co-signing on a loan that puts your assets at severe risk
  • getting in over your head with debt
  • etc.

But, the general principle is the same when you broaden it out to other life areas.

I'm thinking of the precious Christian lady at our church who leads our children's ministry. Yesterday, she and her team executed a marvelous end-of-summer "carnival" in our children's department.  But, notice....she does not take up the offering.  She does not greet people as they come in to church.  She does not lead in worship.  She does not work on the tech team.  What she DOES do is to narrow her focus and then to do what she does REALLY WELL!

See?  Some of us have this tendency to believe that the MORE things we do, the more valuable we are, or the more "good" we are, or the more .... whatever.  And, this is IDOLATRY!  Yes, it is idolatry that is rooted in sanctimonious pride!  As Christians, particularly Christians who actually do get out there and work for Christ's kingdom, we can be especially prone to this very idol.

Hear this:  your value to your Savior is not going to be increased by your overcommitment.  He cannot, nor will not, love you any more or any less than He does at this very moment.  His love for you is perfect, right now!  It is important that you LISTEN to His voice when contemplating a new venture to be sure that it is HIS will being implemented, not.yours.

Ouch!

Let's now focus on verses 2-5.  If you find that you have fallen into such a trap of overpromising, do NOT bravely "muddle through", hoping it will end well.  It probably won't, and your foolish choices will bring dishonor to the name of your Savior.  Ask for help!  Go to those who can help; admit your overestimation of your abilities or time or whatever, and ask for help.  It's not all about you, Sassafras!  Usually, "it's the teamwork that makes the dream work!"
Warning:  Don't just back-out and leave someone "in the lurch".  That is selfish and inconsiderate. Whomever you promised is depending on you.  So, don't withdraw; instead draw more help into the effort.  If you find that idea repugnant, then chances are that sneaky and pernicious religious pride has got its hooks into you pretty good!

Even wise people make mistakes.  The difference between a wise person and a fool is that a wise person recognizes them and takes the necessary (if often difficult) steps to correct them.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go look at my calendar..... ;)




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

BAM!



About a month ago, and again a year ago this week, the Lord asked me to do things I was hesitant to do.  The request He made was going to "cost me", big time.  So, in my flesh and carnality, I resisted at first.  He reminded me that He rewards obedience, when done in faith...that you can't "outgive" Him in any respect of the word.

Well, it hit me this morning like a ton of bricks that His response to my obedience had arrived.  And, let me tell you:  He "repaid me" at least ten-fold, probably more than I even know.
I am just ... in awe of Him.

You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
Deuteronomy 15:10 ESV

This verse is in the context of giving of yourself to help a poor brother/sister who is struggling in some way.  Your gift can be a gift of time, of resources, of talents...it doesn't matter.  In general, God commands us to give of ourselves for others.

But, I have learned that there also times He speaks to His children and clearly says, "Do this specific thing."  His command contains an opportunity for us to exercise our faith, to deepen our relationship with Him, to grow more into His love.

I just wanted to testify to you today that He.Is.Faithful.And.True.  His greatness knows no limits. And, I praise Him before you today.

Exodus 14:13 NET
Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD that he will provide for you today;


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fountains


Discretion is defined as "having good judgment" or "making good decisions"1.  When you left the house and mama called behind you, "Make good choices!", she was referring to discretion.

We are going to examine Proverbs 5 in today's meditation, as it is "next" in our journey through this book of the Bible.  In this proverb, the father is warning his son to keep his marriage vows by avoiding adulterous women.  In this context, an adulterous woman is one who lures a man away from his wife and family.  In a larger context, Jesus defined adultery as lusting in your heart after someone else's spouse or any person who has not been given to you in holy marriage, which God defines as between one man and one woman.  For now, though, let's stick with the more narrow definition.

Some of you will stop reading right about here because this is not a popular topic. In today's modern world, it is common to live by the mantra of: "Life is short; do what feels good."  This practice is not only common; it has been more or less "socially acceptable".  A man leaves his wife and family (or vice versa, the woman leaves) and ungodly society's attitude is more or less: "Too bad for him/her".  "That's the breaks."  We live in a day of utter selfishness and complete self-absorption.

Solomon uses the picture of a flowing fountain to represent a godly marriage, in verses 15-19.
I am absolutely captivated by flowing water.  It is beautiful to look at and lovely to hear.  Animals prefer to drink from flowing water than from still, a fact that bedevils my husband when our dog drinks from a freshly(?)-flushed toilet.  Flowing water is more oxygenated, has more life.  So, Solomon's description is apt.

Drink water from your own cistern
and running water from your own well.
16Should your springs be dispersed outside,
your streams of water in the wide plazas?
17Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in your young wife –
19a loving doe, a graceful deer;
may her breasts satisfy you at all times,
may you be captivated by her love always.

According to Solomon, even when your spouse is old, he or she is still "young" to you.  Here, in verse 18, Solomon is not advocating that a man love his wife only when she is young, but that she is to be "forever young" in his eyes.  "Be captivated by her love.....always".
Don't waste your marital "water" among strangers.

He goes on to describe the adulterous woman, who seems and looks sweet, but who in the end will bring a man to ruin, a family to destruction, children to desolation.

3For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her seductive words are smoother than olive oil,
4but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6Lest she should make level the path leading to life,
her paths are unstable but she does not know it.
7So now, children, listen to me;
do not turn aside from the words I speak.
8Keep yourself far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,

The best advice he gives here is to stay far away from her.  Don't even go near her.  Solomon knows how easily men are tempted by appearance, by pretty lips, by silky hair, by sparkling eyes.  Women can be tempted to adultery, but they are tempted differently.  They are tempted by financial security, by affection, by flattering words, by attention....not so much primarily by physical appearance. Women tend to form emotional attachments before they form physical attachments.  With men, it is just the opposite.

Some of the saddest words in the Bible lie in the middle of this chapter in Proverbs.  Here they are:

11And at the end of your life you will groan
when your flesh and your body are wasted away.
12And you will say, “How I hated discipline!
My heart spurned reproof!
13For I did not obey my teachers
and I did not heed my instructors.
14I almost came to complete ruin
in the midst of the whole congregation!”

As a parent, the most heart-breaking aspect of child-rearing is to raise a rebellious child, a child who has heard the truth and seen it lived out "in technicolor", but who has refused it, believing that "I know better than my parents!"  And, then, they go on to make horrific choices, "throwing away" their futures by hooking up with non-Christian young people, having premarital sex, marrying an unbeliever, letting career opportunities pass them by while they waste their time, spurning educational opportunities, flirting with drugs and crime ..... until one day they find themselves trapped by the cords of their own sin, enslaved by their own foolishness, nearly ruined.  And, all because they did not listen to wisdom, when it was presented to them.  If a course correction is not made, they will find themselves on their deathbeds, looking back and berating themselves for being such fools - - - for hating correction, despising discipline.

I am amazed how often this happens in godly homes, in homes where children have been given all the advantages: spiritual, physical, material, emotional.  The godly parent's prayer is embodied in verse 7:

7So now, children, listen to me;
do not turn aside from the words I speak.

A godly Christian parent's words are like a freshly-flowing fountain!  They are words of wisdom and of life.

You might say....oh, the parents of rebellious children were like Solomon....they said one thing and did another.  Solomon, after all, became utterly enslaved by his "desire to acquire".  His wealth and increasing his wealth became an obsession, until he had a harem of almost 1000 women, not to mention the precious, valuable objects he collected, the amazing buildings he built.  Even those gifted with a supernatural amount of wisdom can be derailed by various kinds of lusts.  The price Solomon's family paid was high.

But, there are truly godly parents whose children go astray, despite prayers, sacrifice, excellent spiritual training, holy example, abundant love.  Who can fathom that?  I can't explain why that happens, other than that every person is given by God the free will to follow Him or not.  You can't suck your faith out of your baby bottle.

Well, this has been a hard, grim and somewhat depressing post.  It is about a proverb that sternly warns. There's no getting around it. Solomon uses the "fountain" analogy again to describe discretion in Proverbs 16:22 - -

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it.

May we regularly refresh ourselves with long, deep, satisfying drinks!

Source:

1   https://www.google.com/searchq=define%3A+discretion&oq=define%3A+discretion&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i58.3671j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8