Friday, December 12, 2008

Turning the Tide

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will.” If a man can dig channels and change the course of water at his pleasure, then a Sovereign God can change a heart whenever it pleases Him. And, if He can redirect a king’s heart, He can certainly do it with the commoner. From the highest to the lowest, God is in control.

When ditches are dug, and the water takes a different course, it does not change the nature of the water nor put force upon it. And so it is with God when He brings about a change of attitude or action in man. It does not take away his free will. God simply directs, providentially, the course that suits His purpose.

Ezra says of the king of his day, “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart...” And John the Beloved tells us in Revelation, “God hath put in their [kings] hearts to fulfill his will...until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” Nowhere is this power over the heart illustrated any better than in the book of Esther. God takes sleep from a king so that he will read a particular book that results in bringing deliverance to an entire nation.

Oh, how we need, once again, to trust in Almighty God to change hearts as we endeavor to accomplish His will on earth.

The God who made the sea can certainly redirect it; and the God who made the human heart can change it.

To Do or Not to Do

Opposites can both be right. There are groups of Christians who do not believe this. One has to be wrong; both cannot be right. Contrary to the teaching of some, the Bible is not always black and white, when speaking of what a Christian may or may not do. Many areas are shaded grey. I don’t know why this is—possibly God wanted each of us to enjoy life according to their individual taste and temperament. And, just maybe, He wanted to see our attitude toward a brother who does not do things like we do.

Romans fourteen is a classic example of how opposites can both be right. Paul discusses three basic areas of controversy in the early Church that still exist today. In verse two, he covers the issue of diet (pork or vegetables); is one to eat or not to eat? In verse five, it is days (Christmas, etc); is one to recognize or not to recognize? And, in verse twenty-one, it is drink; the question is whether to drink or not to drink (grape juice was not an issue). Then, in the same verse, he gives us an underlying principle for all we do or allow in our lives.

There are three types of believers in this enlightening chapter: There is the legalist (weak brother), who judges those who enjoy their liberty. But those who exercise liberty (strong brother) despise those who are legalists (see verse 6). The spiritual man, however, is the one who understands that the strong need to grow in love, and the weak need to grow in knowledge. The weak must learn from the strong and the strong must love the weak.

There is the legalist that judges, the libertarian who despises, and the lover of good men, who takes in both.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sink, Swim, or...

"And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship… And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea…and when they had taken up the anchors…"

When storms arise on the sea of life, it is wise to get rid of those things that weigh us down and threaten our spiritual well being. Although we may deem some things necessary, there are times we may need to throw them overboard if we are to survive the terrible tempest.

Most of us have taken along way too much baggage for our journey. When it is a question of whether or not I am willing to go down with my trinkets and be swallowed up or to continue on my voyage without them, I'll choose the latter every time. I wonder if it would have been a "sink or swim" situation if the four anchors had not been taken back into the boat instead of being cast out with the other things. "We have an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast," therefore we need no others, lest we sink.

You can't have a safe journey with an overloaded ship.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Time of My Life

“My times are in thy hand.” Happy is that person who has both recognized and accepted this truth. All portions of life are in His sovereign hand. He can choose to lengthen a life or shorten it. And, if He so desires, he can embitter or sweeten it. As the wise man said, “He doth whatsoever pleaseth him.” And that should be sufficient enough to please us.

Therefore, whether it be health or sickness, prosperity or poverty, we can rest content, knowing all circumstances are under His control. It is in this fact, no doubt, that Job found his solace. For, said he, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The old patriarch had come to realize that his disappointments were, in reality, God’s appointments.

Foresight says, by faith, “All things work together for good”; hindsight, in fact, says, “He [did] all things well.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Under the Roof

“Thou mighty man of valor...thou shalt save Israel from the Midianites.” This statement was made by the angel of the Lord whose family was poor dirt farmers. And to make things even worse, the man was considered the least in his house. But God delights to do His greatest works with the least means.

God’s champion was threshing wheat. Who would have believed the innumerable army of the Midianites’ greatest antagonist would come from a farmhouse? As someone has said, “Genius hatches her offspring in strange places.” Humble homes can be the birthplace of mighty emancipators (Micah 5:2).

How many great leaders, minds, deliverers, and talents, are now living under the roof of a humble dwelling?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Half Way There

“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” The writer of Hebrews tells us “…without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It seems to me this poor soul in our opening text was like many of us; he believed the first part of the text in Hebrews, but had a problem believing the second half.

In essence, he said, “Lord I believe you can, help me believe you will.” This is seen in his words, “If thou canst do…” It is not enough to believe God is who He says He is; we must believe He will do what He says He will do! There is no half- way mark in pleasing Him. Like the old gospel song says, it’s “not almost, but altogether.” God not only wants us to believe in His personal existence, but also that He will answer our private prayers. He meant them to go together.

I don’t know about you, but I must admit my faith has always been defective. I’ve lacked full confidence that the Lord would answer my prayers. But bless His name, He has always came to my aid when I, like the man in Mark, cried sincerely from my heart, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” By the way, I’d remind you here of the Stewart Hamlin song, “It is no secret what God can do, what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.”

Faith grows by occupying ourselves with who God is, and with what He promised.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When a Little Comma Covers a Long Period

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”, (Isa.61:1-2).

Every writer has his or her own style. For example, I like to use commas. And so did my wife in her writings until she was intimidated by my daughter for using them so often. But she (Leah) doesn’t scare me. Well most of the time, anyway.

In our opening text, the little comma we stopped with covers some two- thousand years. You’ll recall in the synagogue how Jesus quoted this portion from Isaiah’s prophecy, but did not finish it, stopping at the comma (Lk.4:18-20). Why? Because when He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled,” it would have not been true had he continued on with the verse. For the rest of the text says, “And the day of the vengeance of our God.” You can see the former has to do with His first coming, the latter His second coming.

Thank God, “He closed the book…and sat down.” The first part of the text reaches to our age. He is still binding up the brokenhearted and freeing the captives. May God have mercy in the day of His vengeance.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Husks

One need no longer go into the “…far country” to feed on husks. A person has only to travel a short distance across town to any one of several churches to find a plentiful supply of this non-nutritious food. Stacks of it can also be found horded in Christian schools and book stores. A husk, (or shuck, as my Kentucky grandmother used to call it) is the dry covering, or outside shell, of an ear of corn.

It seems many ministries today are attempting to feed God’s people with a diet of externals. But feeding on nothing other than outward husks only leads to tastelessness or bitterness. And there is no incentive to digest either. Husks may satisfy those who live in a pig sty, but never sheep who long for green pastures. Substance always takes precedence over form.

When one comes hungry to “The Father’s house,” he expects, “…corn from heaven,” not dry husks from the prodigal’s place.

Bypassing Basics

“…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not…” Paul evidently had heard what Jesus said about mountain-movers. And, though he had never done it himself, he still believed it possible. But there is no doubt that the apostle was aware of something else his Lord taught. It is apparent that Paul was familiar with the fact that Christ also preached the principle that one was to start with the smallest things (mote) before they moved on to larger things (beam). Jesus’ order was, and is, “least,” then “much.”

Those who desire “great faith,” to remove mountains, need first to use their “little faith” to remove the mole hills in their lives. It is important to learn your simple ABC’s before attempting to spell out big words. When we bypass the basics early on, we lack in substance later on.

Faith moves mountains, but love moves men; and the latter is the greater.