Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Week Twelve - Are you Convinced?

A Christian is a person convinced of four basic things...

They are convinced of their need for a Saviour.

The sermon opened with the reading of John 16:8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The preacher put it this way, "Unless you have been convinced of your sinful state, your feeble attempts at self-righteousness, and your inadequate reasoning, you are not convinced that Christ is all in all."

I thought back to the time I came to Christ, and I had to agree.  I had gone to church for years, served, prayed, and done all the things I was taught, but I still had doubts in my heart and lacked assurance.  I believed my sin wasn’t any worse than anyone else; I was doing all I could be look like a Christian and full of excuses and self-reasoning that kept me from seeing my personal need. 

Then, when the eyes of my heart looked into the loving eyes of my Saviour, my sinfulness was exposed, my works of righteousness faded away, and my will could no longer resist. In humble confession, I repented and gave my life to Christ. I was convinced. I became a Christian. How about you?

They are convinced of the Authority of the Book.

And a beautiful book it is! The Bible is the Christian’s guide, console, teacher, and corrector. Through the Spirit's working, it touches the deepest part of the heart, mind, and soul. It not only contains the word of God but is the Word of God alive in our heart.

It keeps the Christian from sin. “Thy word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11

It holds infinite wisdom. “For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

It has the final authority. “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” Proverbs 21:30

It will be completed. “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18

And it will endure forever. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”  Isaiah 40:8

Those convinced about the authority and beauty of the Book have confidence and perspective that strengthens and directs their life. How important is the Bible to your life?

They are convinced of Commandments.

Commandments might sound like a harsh word, but for the Christian, they hold no anguish. Commandments boil down to “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy mind…and love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 22:37,39

Commandments are love in action. The Christian is convinced that obedience is key to growth and happiness. God isn’t a harsh taskmaster. His commandments are not grievous; we are told in 1 John 5:3. But they are there for our benefit, our help, and our relationship. They give us structure, guidance, and a way to lay up treasure in heaven.

When we are convinced God’s way is best, we find happiness and purpose the world cannot give. How are you doing with obedience?

They are convinced on Commission.

A Christian is also convinced that this gift of salvation, this precious Book, and the directives therein are not to be hoarded.  They are to be shared, lived out so others can see The Light, and blazed abroad. Jesus himself said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” Mark 16:15 

Friend, I am convinced.  Are you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Week Eleven - To Cut a Long Story Short

With the passing of my mother-in-law back on the first part of January, we wound up stateside. We booked our return tickets to England for mid-March, hoping coronavirus restrictions would have calmed down by then, but no such luck. To cut a long story short, just let me say, we have purchased three sets of tickets and are now waiting to see if the final set gets us home the first weekend in April. There are still Covid hurdles to clear, so we try to stay healthy and keep up with all the changes.

Sometimes one wonders why things happen, but I have learned, as my husband says, to just enjoy the ride. Oh, it can get frustrating, fearful, and expensive, but our God is still in control. Even in the craziness, He has a way of revealing His beauty and teaches us to trust Him more. 

We have been staying in a tiny house across the lawn from my middle son and his family. Having our own little place means we rest better, can sit quietly, and enjoy the Lord’s provision. And there are five grandkids bringing life and excitement only a stone’s throw away. Also, our daughter and her family are only a short drive, so we have enjoyed time with them as well. 

And then, our home church and extended family are nearby, our family friends and memories are all hinged on this part of the country. That means we relax in familiar surroundings. No noisy streets, no pressing ministries, no expectations, just life.

As I was praying the other night, I rejoiced to see the Lord’s loving hand in our situation. Oh, there is still Covid, there is still the nervousness about the uncertainty of our flight in April and the sadness of saying goodbye again, but all those things pale when I see the goodness and provision of God.

I know we are all longing for the day when Covid becomes a thing of the past and life gets back to some sort of normal, but let’s not wish away the beauty of what is around us now. Some blessings and opportunities have only come because of the lockdowns and restrictions. 

Opportunities like more time with your children, playing games as a family, spending less on gas for the car, eating homemade food, and having time to re-evaluate life. Remember when we used to wish for time to stop? Have you used your restriction time wisely?  

And blessings, like the reminder this pandemic has given us about our vulnerabilities, our need for friends, the testimonies of God’s grace and goodness. Have you counted yours?

Here’s the thing – dwelling on negatives does not produce a positive mindset.Looking for the good in hard situations, praising and thanking the Lord for His activity and seeking to share encouragement with others create a brighter prospect. 

So, as I take my PCR Covid test in a couple of weeks and get everything ready for that April 2nd flight; I hope you will pray that I remember the lessons the Lord has been teaching me and that His hand will take us safely and assuredly back to our ministry in England.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Week Ten - Powerful Restraint

As I began reading a book entitled Jesus and Ourselves by Leslie D. Weatherhead, I was captured reflecting on the depth of the power of Christ. All power is given unto Him, and the author explored four ways Jesus restrains His power to respect our personage. These four are well within Jesus’ right and power. He could use them to cause us to respond to Him, but because He has all power, He uses restraint.

Physical Power – the author states, “Yet, the striking thing is that, out of respect for men’s personality, Jesus will not try to win even a righteous cause by force.” (p 28) Even though Jesus was innocent, He did not use His immense power to win the day. He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross, but He chose to submit His power and His will to the will of His Father. In the time of His temptation, one word from Him would have totally annihilated Satan, but He refused to let His physical power override His personal, spiritual restraint in the face of temptation.

What a beautiful example of submission and meekness, which is strength under control. Such is our Saviour, meek and lowly of heart, but not without immense power – power under control, restrained to make way for us.

Psychic Force – Jesus calls us to follow, then, “Lest the tremendous impact of His personality should throw us off balance. He wants our decision to be our own. There happens with Jesus what always happens where you have a powerful personality. There were few neutrals. Men were for or against. And they were swayed, not by examining the issue in all its bearings and making a personal choice which recognized all the implications but were swept into one or other camp by those almost electrical currents of psychic energy which streamed from Him. Crowds surged around Him and would have died for Him.  Others withdrew to weave their corporate suspicion, hate, and fear into a net strong enough to drag Him to death. Jesus knew this would happen. As He said, He came not to bring the peace of smug, self-satisfied complacency, but the sword of division that severs sometimes the closest-knit intimacies of life.” (p 30-31)

I don’t know about you, but I love Him more because He does not force me to love Him. He calls me to follow, and I make that choice. We love him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). There is no coercion, no forcing of the will, no demand. Only a loving invitation.

Mental Superiority - “Jesus never crushed men’s minds by the sheer weight of argument, which they had no trained faculty to disentangle or co-ordinate with the rest of their mental background. He led them gently step by step so that the mind could always look back and see the steps it had taken. It is the difference between being whirled into a new experience by an escalator and walking quietly upstairs.  Jesus could not override perplexity or accept a loyal heart at the expense of a disabled mind.” (p 31) 

I’m reminded of the many verses telling us all knowledge and all wisdom is in Him. We think we are so smart, so advanced, so tech-savvy, but our minuscule brains are nothing compared to our Creator. Yet, He never uses His mental superiority to crush us or leave us confused.  He shines the light of understanding into our hearts and brings us to understanding according to our capabilities.

Emotional Appeal – “Jesus never pressed for decision while emotion was at its height, nor coerced a submission by an appeal to admiration, or pity, or fear.” (p 33)

As you read Jesus encounters with the emotional moments of his life and ministry, the woman caught in adultery, Mary washing His feet with her hair, or even when His parents came frantically looking for Him, in every instance, Jesus acknowledged the emotion, but left the scene calmed and with a direct result that never forced the person to a greater emotional reaction. He always led them to a peaceful decision that recognized their humanity.

Jesus could have used any or all of these four powers in dealing with man, but, “If He lifted so much as a little finger, our paltry defenses would go down in ruins, but because of this tremendous respect for our personality, which reveals the eternal restraint of God, this great Lover of the soul will never be its burglar, but will wait on the threshold until we ourselves rise and let Him in. ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘I stand at the door and knock.’ What a respect for personality! What a divine restraint! What a majestic love! I listen down the corridor of the years for any sound of the dread trumpet of an angel summoning men to repentance. I only hear the voice of a Baby crying in a manger, and a whisper from lips tortured by pain, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (p 35)

AMEN. How beautiful. If we lift Him up, He will draw men to see His love, sacrifice, and beauty. How can the eye turn away? How can the heart not be moved? How can the intellect fail to comprehend? All power is given unto Him, and He directs that power in love toward us.

Dear reader, if you do not know Christ, I urge you to consider Him once again. He is the Saviour, the all-powerful God, and His provision for your restoration cost Him everything. He willingly laid aside His powerful rights to pay the price of your sin and offers forgiveness. Your part is to humbly admit your need and recognize His sacrifice.

Christian, stand in awe at the meekness, wisdom, patience, and powerful restraint that affords your salvation and works through to your sanctification.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Week Nine - Are You Being Tempered or in a Temper?

I don’t remember where I heard this little question, but it has stuck with me for several weeks. Ask yourself, as I asked myself, “Am I being tempered or in a temper?”

That question holds much for us to discover. You see, being tempered requires pressure, fire, and pushing to the limits. Being tempered makes us stronger, more resilient, and able to withstand greater pressures. We need to be tempered. Without this type of challenge and growth, we have the feeble knees and dangling hands mentioned in Hebrews 12. We remain lame and in need of healing.

Have you ever studied the twelfth chapter of Hebrews? It is packed with instruction, but not the type of instruction we like to hear. The first few verses are great and encouraging, but then the passage moves into a discussion about the need for God’s children to receive and endure correction.

Verse eleven comes to a conclusion saying, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” 

That is a good definition for tempering. It isn’t a comfortable exercise, but the results are beneficial. Few of us look forward to hard times that push us to greater character, strength, or faith, but this is the way of God. Our Father wants strong children. Tempering gives us that strength.

But tempers? They are different. We’ve all seen the toddler throwing a temper tantrum on the floor of the grocery store because the parent refused to buy more candy. We’ve seen the teenager storming out of a room and heard the slamming of doors and the shouts of anger. And, be honest, we also know when we could barely hold our tongue for the rage and rebellion that wanted to spew from our hearts when we were refused our way.

A temper tantrum is defiance, rebellion, and stubbornness. But back to the question, “Are you being tempered or in a temper?” 

Let’s think about it this way. As we face the restrictions, confusion, and illogical patterns of life in this pandemic, what is our response?  Are we allowing these things to refine us, to temper us, to give us strength? Or are we throwing tantrums? Are we speaking words of hate and anger? Are we doing things to be annoying and purposeful difficult with vengeful feelings? I hope not!

There is fruit to both tempering and tantrums.  In Hebrews 12, we read that the fruit of tempering is peace and righteousness.  If you read on in the chapter, you see that temper tantrums lead to rejection and regret. So, ask yourself again, “Are you being tempered or in a temper?”