Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Week Twenty-Six - Rebel Rousers

Beside the Well
            Sometimes, my Bible makes me laugh out loud!  As I was reading through the Psalms enjoying David’s poetry, I came to Psalm 59.  Like many of the Psalms, David asks God to defend him from his enemies, but when I got to verse six and seven, my visual mind kick in and I started to laugh.
            It reads, “They (the wicked) return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.  Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?”
            I’ve seen them before, haven’t you? Not only was I laughing at the image in my mind, but according to verse eight, God is also laughing.  “But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them.”   I don’t think God is laughing because He thinks they are funny.
            I pondered a while and then read on until my attention was again captured at verses 14 and 15.  “And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.  Let them wander up and down for meat, (look for something to eat) and grudge if they be not satisfied(stay out all night).
            To keep the verse in context, we must remember that David is describing his enemies.  They snarl and bark like dogs on the hunt, wretched words come out of their mouths, and they have no dread of man or God.  They are always on the prowl and keep up the hunt at any cost.
            My mind went to the yobs that hang around town at night.  They bark and howl using foul language due to intoxication and drugs. They wander around all night getting more and more frustrated as they look for some sort of satisfaction.
            I laughed because I had never noticed these verses before and I was amazed that God’s portrayal could be so remarkably visual and descript. 
            Sadly, these verses describe a good portion of society today.  Not just the unruly youth, but also the attitude and actions of political parties and business leaders.  Whatever happened to character?  When did it become okay to be base and disrespectful? 
            I find these sorts of actions fearful, but David was not afraid.  He decided to continue singing of God’s power and mercy aloud each morning because he knew God was his defense and refuge. (vs. 16, 17)
            And that made me laugh again.  After a night of rebel rousing, the last thing these folks want to hear is someone singing, and especially singing about the Lord.
            Isn’t God cool?  We don’t have to be afraid of barking dogs or noisy politicians; we can sing our hearts out to the Lord and enjoy our day for God is our defense!

Gail Gritts
Beside the Well

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Week Twenty-Five - Fake News

Beside the Well
            Fake news, we hear it all the time.  It is getting harder and harder to determine what is true in the press.  With Photoshop and all sorts of other techniques, anything can be made to look real.  I even saw a picture the other day of the skeleton of a mermaid.  Now, don’t fall for it!  It was photo-shopped, but the article sounded very convincing.
            Sadly, the same thing happens in the church.  As searchers look for truth, they are left grappling with all sorts of fake news like promises of prosperity, healing, and supernatural power. 
            Rev. S Martin painted the picture this way: “Like the old tower on the plain of Shinar.  A stranger draws near to see what the children of men are building.  He inquires.  He is answered by a confusion of sounds and incongruous voices.  Each voice may have some tones of Paradise; each dialect may have numerous signs and sounds of Eden; but the effect of the whole upon the ear of the stranger is this one impression—Babel.” (p 79)
            How sad when the voice of the church gives an indistinct sound; when the word of life is dimmed or distorted by issues, opinions, and fake news.  How are men to determine truth when they cannot hear it plainly?  How are they to listen to the good news of the saving grace of Christ when each herald sounds his own trumpet?
            Rev Martin went on to discuss the effect of the church’s fake news on society.  Men no longer trust each other—in business, in writing, in art, they all criticize and have no leader.  They laugh at our faith but demand we have faith in them, while in secret they are unfaithful.  When the truth is not clearly proclaimed, men make their own truth.
            Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher and historian in the 1800’s who had a robust remedy for fake news—to cut out the tongues of one generation. Imagine that!
            But, Rev Martin makes note, “the clipping of the tongue, as Carlyle forgets, would only make maimed men; and God’s way of redeeming a man, is, not to maim him, but to make him whole.” (p 78)  This blessed my heart!  Our Lord doesn’t maim us; He corrects us in love for our benefit, speaking directly to our hearts to mend the flaw. 
            But I got to thinking, “How can a man be made whole if he cannot succinctly hear the instruction of the Great Physician?” “Would the clipping of the tongue change the wickedness of the heart?”  Hardly.  So what is to be done?
            The difference between the Christian and his opponents is the object of belief.  Faith must be in Christ alone, and in His truth—not fake news. Fake news obstructs truth.  We are warned against following fables and useless questions
(1 Timothy 1:4) and admonished to blow our gospel trumpets with an intelligible sound (1 Corinthians 14:8).
            If men are to be made whole, they need to hear a genuine, honest message of God's love that avoids the babble of fake news.
Gail Gritts 
Beside the Well

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week Twenty-Four - When a Worm Speaks

Beside The Well             
            One of my favorite ways to read Scripture is aloud as if I were reading a letter from a friend.  That way, I hear distinctive messages and find intonations that escape me with silent reading.  As I read Psalm 39 aloud, I found some warnings and real encouragement.
            Verse 1 – remember that tongue?  Keep it shut when you are in the company of your enemy.  “I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”
            Verse 2 – Holding your tongue is very hard to do.  It is troublesome. “I was dumb with silence, I held my peace…and my sorrow was stirred.”
            Verse 3 – It will burst forth as it burns to speak. “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned…”
            I was surprised to read what words came out as the psalmist continued. They weren’t words to defame the enemy; they were words speaking of his personal vanity.  Look at this!
            Verse 4 – Lord, I am frail.  Help me to remember I am but human. “Make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days…that I may know how frail I am.”
            Verse 5 – I may be an adult, but my age is not a trump card.  In my best state, I am still empty.  I cannot use seniority to beat down others. “Mine age is as nothing before thee; verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”
            Verse 6 – My wealth and riches are nothing when compared to you, Lord. “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew…he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.”
            Verse 11 – No matter how good looking I am, or confident, it all pales when you correct me.  You see right through me. “When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth…”
            Verse 7 – My hope must lie in the Lord.  “My hope is in thee.”
            Verse 13 – My cry or plea must rise to You alone.  You are the only one who can give me strength and mercy.  “O spare me…” me, who am nothing, me who is unable to secure anything—“that I may recover strength”—humbled by my inadequacies, only You can breathe encouragement and strength—Your strength into my guilty, deflated heart.
            It reminded me of David’s plea in Psalm 22:6, “I am a worm, and no man.”  And, of Isaiah 6:5 where the prophet said, “Woe is me! For I am undone”as they saw the vanity of their humanity. “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” (Psalm 39:5)
            Verse 8 – Deliver me, Lord from my sinfulness. “Deliver me from all my transgressions.”
            Verse 12 – Hear my prayer and see my tears. “Hear my prayer…give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears…”
Only God’s word has the power to expose the vanity (emptiness) of our humanity and reach deep enough to reveal the pride and deceitfulness of our crafty hearts.
            When we are tempted to open our mouths and annihilate others, we are best to turn those words back toward ourselves and see that we, too, are only human. 
            “Lord, I am nothing.  You are everything. Secure my heart and my tongue that I might remember whose I am.  Help me to humbly stay in my place. Amen.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Week Twenty-Three - The Evil I

            Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India who wrote many books, but one that keeps circulating is called If.  Short and sweet by name, and short and sweet by nature, her book points the reader to think about the consequences of attitudes and decisions not based on Calvary love.  My use of the word sweet is a probably a poor definition.  I’d encourage you to get a copy and see for yourself because some of her ifs are very poignant and direct.
            One of them that caught my attention was “If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have a heart of leisure from myself, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” (p 38)
            Scripture began to flood my heart as I pondered her thought.  We are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  We are called to deny self (Mark 8:34).  We are to think others are more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Sadly, most of our thoughts revolve around what we think we need, deserve, plan to do, what others think about us, what we look like, wish for or want.
            Be honest.  Do you wake up each morning wondering if your neighbor had a good night’s sleep?  Do you direct your day’s plans according to what will be best for the other people on their way to work?  Or do you start with thinking about getting yourself out of bed, dressed, fed, and to the workplace without any thought of others who are doing the same?  I am fairly confident that most of us take care of self first.
            Do you weigh up decisions based on the best outcome for all concerned or what will benefit you?  Do you take the larger slice of cake?  Do you serve yourself first?  Do you resist helping others because it might cost you something or take your valuable time? Do you find yourself getting angry when other’s needs get in your way?   Do you resent authority?  Do you think only of yourself?
            This trait of “me first” seems over prevalent today but if Amy Carmichael, way back in the 1800’s, was impressed to notice, and the Bible makes note of it too, then narcissism is a sinful trait to be repented.  There is no excuse for selfish behaviour.  Common courtesy still has its place.
            Elizabeth Elliot, in her devotion book, Keep a Quiet Heart, speaks of teaching self-denial to our children. “The earlier the parents begin to make the laws of order and beauty and quiet comprehensible to their children, the sooner they will acquire good, strong notions of what is so basic to real godliness: self-denial.  A Christian home should be a place of peace, and there is no peace where there is no self-denial. (p 250)
So, true.  People who demand are taxing. People who give are a joy.  People who only think of themselves cannot be trusted.  They are looking out for self, and you are not in their equation. Self-focus causes short tempers, resentment in relationships, and does not make for a peaceful home or life.
            God’s way is different.  Give and it shall be given unto you (Luke 6:8).  Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:3). Condescend (Romans 12:16).  Do you know what condescend means? It means to come down off your self-appointed perch to do a service for someone else even if they don’t deserve it or haven’t earned it.  It is to humble yourself to meet the need of another regardless of rank.  Sounds like what Christ did for us, huh?
            He took on the form of a servant; made Himself of no reputation that He might save us. By loving others so much that He gave it all, He becomes our prime example of unselfish behaviour.
            Let’s not stop there.  The Bible goes on to instruct us to share what we have with those in need (Hebrews 13:6). We are to look for opportunities to help others, not for gain, but to be a blessing (Philippians 2:4).  Oh, many more instructions in God’s word call us to share Calvary love by the way we live, and all of them warn us to watch out for the evil “I.” 

Gail Gritts
Beside the Well