Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Week Twenty-Two - What Ya Doin' in There?

Beside the Well
            Most mothers would agree that when kids go quiet, they were up to something.  This is true with toddlers and teens.  God knows the same thing happens with His children.
            In 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah hiding in a cave having himself a good pout. God comes to check on him whispering, “What ya doin’ in there, Elijah?”  Well, that probably wasn’t how God said it, but I can imagine God’s tender voice calling for an answer.
            Do you remember the story?  God tries to get Elijah’s attention by a strong wind and an earthquake, but only His gentle call brings Elijah to the door of the cave.  I’ve heard this account used to address depression, and no doubt Elijah was depressed as he hid from Jezebel but I got to thinking about other types of hiders.
            Some sit quietly in our churches living two lives.  They are Christians on Sunday, but not the rest of the week.  They hide in church hoping no one will find them out.  They are deceivers in the cave of hypocrisy.
            There are sinners who think no one knows their addiction, but they cannot avoid the voice of God that calls them by name.  God knows they are in the cave of secrecy.
            There are those who feel locked in the cave of gloom. Despair has overtaken their lives, and they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Why are they hiding there when God’s grace and mercy are so strong?
            Others are in the cave of non-confession.  They know the Lord but are so entangled with the world they fear making their faith public. They don’t have the courage to break away from their worldly friendships, so they sit trembling as God calls their name.
            Some have lodged in the cave of complaint.  They are content with themselves and discontented with everyone else. Complaining has become such a way of life they see nothing positive.  If they could but leave the cave, their pent-up energy might produce some good.
            And, there are those who have settled into the cave of comfortable seclusion. They have served their time, found a cozy place, and do not want to shift.  They hear God call but find it easier to make an excuse for their inactivity than leave their cave of isolation.  All the while, they wonder why they feel so lonely.
            “What ya doin’ in there?” God asks.  And most usually, just as children, we answer, “Nothing.”
            And that is precisely the problem.  We aren’t doing anything.  We aren’t doing anything about our situation.  We aren’t doing anything for God or in obedience to His word.  We aren’t doing anything to get out of the cave.
            When Elijah heard the voice of God, he came out (1 Kings 19:13).
            Which cave are you hiding in?  What ya doin’ in there?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Week Twenty-One - It's Gonna End in Tears

Beside the Well
            I remember the day four colossal cypress trees in our back garden were chopped down.  They had grown taller than the house and were casting such a shadow the grass could not grow, but I loved them!  The final clincher came when the extension on the house began to crack, and the surveyor said it was because the roots from these trees were sucking the moisture out of the ground.
            House or trees? House, I guess, but that didn’t stop my tears, as my beautiful trees lay chopped to pieces in the back garden.
            I was reminded of this tree story as I read a devotional based on 2 Corinthians 4:18.  “for the things which are seen are temporal.” My trees were definitely temporal. It hurt to see them go.  But the writer of the devotion was not worried about my trees.  He had more profound things to consider.
            As he wrote to engage the reader’s thoughts on the things that are temporal, he mentioned these:
            1.  The good things we see are not enough.  They are temporal, for within us is eternity.  All that we see, the beauty around us, the creature comforts we enjoy, our wealth, our poverty, our clothing, food, and possessions, all of it is temporal.  It will all be left behind.  Things and people can never give us the peace and joy we seek in our inner man.  Only God can do that.

            2.  Our trials, tests, and afflictions are temporal. Trials come and trials go. That is the nature of life.  In glory, there will be no trial, no affliction, no more testing.  These things are for this life only.  They are temporal. 
            3. Emotions are temporal.  We change all the time. Joy follows sorrow; fear dashes hope. These spring from what we see around us.  The writer said,  “Great joy is dangerous and deep grief is unnecessary.”  (p 91) Governing our emotions is the key.  Don’t let them get too firm a hold of you.  Tomorrow you will feel different because feelings are temporal.

            4.  Life here, though hard or glorious, is temporal for our hope, and our damnation lies beyond this realm.  “And none can find heaven here.  This is not your rest.  (Read that again.  I love that thought.) Fullness of joy, pleasures forevermore, perfect peace, undisturbed rest—these are not to be derived from things temporal.  All here is transient.” (p 89)  
            It made my heart start singing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…”  No matter what my life consists of on earth, it is temporal.  In heaven, I have an eternal inheritance waiting for me (I Peter 1:4).
            If all is temporal, why then do we bother?  I think the answer lies in Ecclesiastes 2:24, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.  This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”
            Life comes from God.  The beauty around is evidence of His creation.  All we enjoy is from His hand, but when we start to cling to the creation more than the creator, that is when the temporal becomes problematic.
            We will best enjoy life when we hold all things lightly with an attitude of gratitude. Our affections are to be set on things above, not on what we gain in this life.
            “The things that are seen are temporal.”  Oh, if we would write this on our hearts and renew it every time we find ourselves getting attached to temporal things and clinging to or crying over something lost. We can enjoy all God has given when we learn to discern between the temporal and the eternal.  

Westminster Chapel Pulpit, Rev S Martin

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Week Twenty - Well, Shut My Mouth!

Beside the Well
            There they go, words tumbling out, with all the odor of a filthy sewer, revealing the thoughts of your heart to everyone in earshot. Forget putting your foot in your mouth; this tastes much worse!  Even eating crow might be more palatable than having to consume these words again.
            Our tongues are a deadly poison.  James 3 paints a rather bleak picture calling them an unruly evil, untamable, a kindler of fire, and something that sullies our whole body.
            So, what’s a person to do?  Never speak again?  Learn sign language? Limit yourself to texting?  I’m afraid none of those will make a successful guard against the ugliness that vomits from our hearts.
            However, God does have a few suggestions for us.  First, keep a watch.  James 3:14 “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.”  Be honest with yourself about anger and jealousy you feel.  Don’t be deceived.  God knows what is in your heart, and if you aren’t watchful, it will come out your mouth.  
            Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”  Ask the Lord to show you your heart’s flaws, and where your thoughts lead you to a precarious precipice. Keep yourself in check.
            And, God says, “put your hand upon your mouth.” (Proverbs 30:32) In Job 21:5, Job says the same thing to his critical friends.  And the same phrase is found in Judges 18:19, Micah 7:16, Job 29:9 and Job 40:4. 
            What does it mean?  It means to put your hand on your mouth before letting ugly, maligning words come out—to stop yourself.  Ecclesiastes 5:6 says, “Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin.”  Just don’t do it!
            When we look at the whole verse in Proverbs 30:32, God gives us two forewarnings, “If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, (pride) or if thou hast thought evil, (bad thoughts) lay thine hand upon thy mouth.”  These are warning signals.
            So, when I hear my inner voice saying things like, “I know more about that than they do.”  “I’ve got a bigger or better story than that.”  I need to recognize pride at work in my heart and put my hand on my mouth before conceited words come tumbling out. 
            When I feel a rush of emotion with a desire to get even, wound or trample someone with my words, those are cruel thoughts no one needs to hear.  It’s time to pull my hand out of my pocket and cover my lips while I pray for forgiveness and self-control. 
            It’s quite a challenge, but a spiritual discipline worth cultivating!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Week Nineteen - There's a Local Hero for that!

Beside the Well
            Have you ever felt a great awareness that the people walking beside you at the mall or on the high street are totally without Christ?  When I first came to the mission field my heart grieved with the lostness of those around me and of my great desire and responsibility to give them the gospel.
             I had to control my emotions and start lovingly drawing them to Christ; otherwise, I might find myself climbing up on some bench preaching in the middle of the Saturday shoppers.
            That is the fact of evangelism.  We see men perishing for lack of a remedy, for no knowledge of the provision of salvation, and the Spirit prompts us to go and tell. 
            We are the fountains in the desert, the beacon on the shore.  Like our Master, when He was surrounded by a multitude of the sick and needy, lepers are before us—we know what will heal them. The maimed and diseased walk beside us—we know what will bring straightness to their limbs and eradication of their ailment.  When storms come to their lives, we know Who will hush the winds, calm the water, and bring peace to their souls.  When they are faint with hunger, we know the Bread of Life.  When death is at their door, we can offer the Giver of Life. For sin in all its form, for evil in all its workings, we know the remedy.
            We know the solution for the perishing world because we have been recovered by it ourselves.  We know for He touched our hearts.  He rescued us.   2 Corinthians 4:13  “…we believe, therefore we also speak.”
            So, dear evangel, speak.  Do not keep silent, but intelligently, lovingly, earnestly, and incessantly speak to the lost that walk through your life and those who interact with you as family or friends.  Let them know, in all their lostness, “There’s a local hero for that!”

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Week Eighteen - Gladly Engaged

Beside the Well

            I’m still sharing Rev Martin’s sermon on Psalm 122:1.  I’m going to list his outline, and when I get to the next point that spoke to my heart, I’ll ramble a bit!
            When coming to the house of the Lord, certain thoughts will enter our minds.  1) Thoughts of the Lord Himself.  We can be glad to have a Lord who is our shepherd, our fortress, and our sun and shield. God’s goodness will gladden our hearts.  2) Thoughts about the exercises and acts of worship like prayer, giving, and singing. 3) Thoughts of receiving a special blessing from God. 4) Thoughts about fellowship with other believers.  5) Thoughts about the privilege of serving the Lord.  6) Thoughts about worship.  And this is where I found another gem.
            Rev Martin wrote, “What, for example, do you expect in worship?  You expect the minister to confess, give thanks, and pray for you, and you do not so much join with him as listen to him. This ought not to be, for you yourselves are a priesthood…Our desire is, that you should pray with me, and give thanks with me, and confess sin with me, allowing me to lead you, but not allowing my prayers to be substituted for your own.” (p 52)
            How many times have I sat in church as a spectator instead of engaging my heart?  How many times have I sung the songs without hearing the words?  How many times have I listened to someone else pray without entering into prayer with them?
            And, when I have engaged, sang with understanding, and prayed with those around me, how much sweeter has been my worship?  How much more precious the tears of confession and rejoicing?  How much more glad my comment as I left the building—“it was good to go into the house of the Lord?”
            So, next Sunday, instead of just bumbling in and finding your seat, join in.  Lead someone to come with you, pray along with those who are praying, sing allowing the words to penetrate your heart, and worship as someone who is a part of the body of Christ—alive unto God and glad to be so!

Martin, Rev. Samuel, Westminister Chapel Pulpit, Reports of Sermons, 1859, James Brown, London