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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Deliverer’s Delight

“He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because He delighted in me.”—Psalm 18:19

Just think about the reason for our redemption!  The Lord saves us not out of a sense of duty or to satisfy some onerous obligation.  Deliverance comes instead as a result of His delight in us.  Grace flows happily from the heart of God and fills the forgiven sinner’s empty cup.  Had this deliverance sprung from any other source, our chastened consciences would prod us toward whispered sighs of relief and quiet throbbing shame.  But He delights in us!  And this delight of the Deliverer fuels our own delight.  Once we grasp this truth about the character of God and His amazing love for us, we can only respond with exuberance and celebration.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent . . .”—Psalm 30:11

God loves us with a love unfailing.  He delights in us with a faithful delight so overwhelming that we cannot help but change.  Oh, the joy He gives us!  Our gladness explodes like so much fizz from a shaken bottle of pop, pushed open with the upward pressure of praise.  Our glory is to glorify Him.  That’s why He turns our mourning into dancing.  God, give me no glory save the glory that glorifies You.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Bible Reading, Character of God, Praise

 

Saved To Serve

“And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law laying sick with a fever.  He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve Him.  That evening they brought to Him many who were oppressed by demons, and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.”—Matthew 8:14-16

“The Island”—there is no better name for the Formica-topped structure of drawers and cabinets set in middle of our kitchen.  All sorts of flotsam and jetsam seem to ride the swirling household tide until they wash ashore here.  Scissors, glue containers, and scotch tape drift by, lingering for days only to vanish in some mysterious undertow just when an inhabitant finds that he or she urgently needs to cut or assemble something.  It’s a never-ending flow of detritus.  Bibles and fragments of forgotten Sunday school projects.  Half-filled cups of water.  Damp dish towels.  Tissues of several varieties:  plain, fragrant, and well-used.  Any trinkets, action figure accoutrements, or crumbs arbitrarily judged to be choking hazards and duly placed out of reach of the one-year-old who scours the floor like a hungry sucker fish prowling the seabed.  There are other “islands” of comparable tidiness in the archipelago I call home.  For purposes of illustration, the one in the kitchen will do.

I should make clear that I am not Robinson Crusoe.  In terms of the local population capable of mess-making, we are talking roughly the size of the S.S. Minnow’s crew plus passengers.  With this many castaways riding the currents back and forth to the fridge, the table, or the telephone, the flotsam and jetsam accumulates on the Island rather rapidly.  As you might imagine, the problem lies in the fact that not many inhabitants are interested in combing the beach and claiming responsibility for the treasures they’re sure to discover.  To make matters worse, I can stand next to the Island, point to a specific piece of colored debris, and ask a room of five or six girls adequately proficient in English, “Hey, whose tae-kwon-do belt is this?” . . . and, in response, hear exactly what I would hear were I to put a conch to my ear.  Even the four-year-old senses that, if no one responds, the inquisitor has no choice but to:  (1) go through the time-consuming process of asking five or six people individually; (2) remove the object from the Island himself; or (3) assume it belongs to the cat and throw it in the litter box.  All three involve more work for me and less work for them.

The deeper problem, of course, is that the people of the archipelago aren’t enthusiastic about serving.  They are routinely in the business of imposing burdens on their fellow castaways rather than carrying them for each other.

My wife and I have tried to nudge our kids toward embracing God’s call to serve.  As the case of the Island suggests, it has been exasperating because selflessly serving others doesn’t come naturally for anyone.  In Matthew’s gospel, a story that’s not really the story provides a useful object lesson.  Jesus heals Peter’s bedridden, fever-struck mother-in-law.  Immediately, “she rose and began to serve Him.”  This passage reminds us that Jesus saves for a reason.  He loves us, of course.  But He also rescues us because we each have a role to play in the coming of His kingdom.  Even accounting for the stereotypes about mothers-in-law, can we picture Peter’s actually complaining about having to leave her bed to prepare a meal for the One to whom she owed her life?  Would she set about this chore grudgingly or with unspeakable joy?

No doubt, Peter’s mother-in-law considered her redeemed life to be reward enough.  But there was more.  Serving Him, she was then treated to the parade of healings that occurred on her very doorstep as the broken came to Jesus for restoration.  As she wiped her brow and beheld this feast of miracles, could she be anything but grateful and delighted at the staggering thought that He had come to her?

We are saved to serve.  Our rest comes later.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Bible Reading, Large Families, Serving

 

Farewell Gifts

by Johann Christoph WeigelAs a parent, I am moved by the Apostle Paul’s tearful farewell to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38).  The Ephesians are saddened, of course, at the prospect of never again seeing their teacher and spiritual father this side of eternity.  For his part, Paul says goodbye to his flock in full awareness of the agonizing challenges that await its members.  He reminds them of the God-honoring personal example he set and commends them “to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

God and His Word.  These are not only sources of strength as we grow spiritually in this life of service to our Lord and Savior but also objects of hope as we look—often through tears of suffering—to the coming of His glorious kingdom.

This bittersweet moment on the shore of Ephesus strikes me as a picture of parents taking leave of a child about to embark on a life of her own.  It is not an exact picture . . . but edifying still.  It speaks to the most valuable gifts we can give to our children as they grow into maturity and independence.  In the short years they are under our care, we can instruct them in the truths of the gospel and provide an example (albeit a flawed one) of a life lived in the grace-infused light of those truths.  We, as parents, can point them to the source of true strength and the object of imperishable hope . . . in very powerful ways . . . if we are diligent.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Bible Reading, Fatherhood, Paul

 

Repentance Unto Knowledge of the Truth

“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”—Job 38:2by Laurent de La Hyre

“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”—Job 42:3

This abridged exchange between God and Job reminds me of the times I have “darkened counsel” through my own prideful, angry words . . . of the times I have “uttered what I did not understand” in a fit of jealousy or resentment springing from a contrived sense of self-importance.

On the far side of suffering, Job finally recognized the limits of his earthly wisdom and opened his mind to the brighter light of God’s truth.  In the radiance of this revelation, he could glimpse the expansive scope of God’s power while acknowledging without complaint the enduring mystery of His ways.  He accepted a new possibility—a truth that, until then, had lain beyond the fringe of lamplight in shadows painted by his “darkened counsel”:  Job had no warrant to summon God and could craft no statute that required the Creator to explain personal suffering in terms that met with Job’s approval or complied with Job’s expectations.

When we impose “darkened counsel” on ourselves or those closest to us, our hope for genuine enlightenment must be the same as Job’s.  It begins with repentance granted by an all-knowing, all-understanding God who then mercifully leads us to a knowledge of the truth—truth that had once been outside our ability to comprehend or perhaps only obscured by our own stubborn, willful ignorance.  So Lord, give me the wisdom to know when to speak, to admit when I don’t understand, to be satisfied with the knowledge You reveal to me, and to recognize Your truth in all its brightness.

“. . . in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”—2 Timothy 2:25

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Bible Reading, Job, Knowledge, Suffering, Truth

 

Slaves by Choice

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then I said, ‘Here am I; send me.’” –Isaiah 6:8

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers draws on the prophet Isaiah’s encounter before the throne to illustrate God’s manner of calling believers to service.  As Chambers points out, the Creator of all things does not come to us “with compulsions and pleadings.”  Isaiah was seeking the Lord and, in His presence, heard a general call:  “Who will go for us?”  In conscious freedom, Isaiah answered.

If we are serious about searching out God and knowing Him more, we should expect to find something.  And we should not be surprised to hear that “still small voice” asking, “Who will go for us?”  Our ears must be listening for this question; our eyes open to the awesome majesty of the One issuing the call; our lips ready to respond to it with delight.

Isaiah had chosen to pursue God.  In making that choice, the prophet understood what had to follow once he came within earshot of the call:  his answer.  The paradoxical nature of the choice we make to surrender our lives to Jesus lies in the realization that our very choice—if genuine—leads to consequences we can do nothing to reject, sidestep, or ignore.  Of course, while they limit our freedom (for we know we must obey), these consequences enable us to experience unspeakable joy—unspeakable not only in the sense that words can’t describe its wonder but also because we can’t specifically know beforehand the blessings God intends to bestow.

It is sweet irony that we desire—and willingly choose—to become slaves to the most gracious of Masters.