Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ornament of Meekness

The Christmas tree dazzled with a brilliance unparalleled in other years. Silver ornaments, offset by sparkling white lights, presented a picturesque image for the family living room. But throughout the year, another ornament seeks decoration upon the tree that is a woman's spirit. It is that of meekness..which is in the sight of God of great price (I Peter 3:4).

What precisely is this attitude that is to grace the life of the Christ-filled believer? Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word meekness might be defined as “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit.” Commentator Matthew Henry writes, “Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”

Coupled with the quiet spirit, a meek frame of mind is the attitude with which we must submit to God (James 1:21) and others (Eph. 4:2). Indeed, such an attitude yields its own rights, because it trusts that God, the Master Planner and Architect of our lives’ framework, will do right. Furthermore, such a spirit believes God’s promises and obediently yields to His way, confident that regardless of the bleak appearance of outward circumstances, His way is perfect.

The commentator continues: “In the Old Testament, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice.” Too often when our ways become imperiled by difficulties, we resort to the way we know best—our own. Instead of turning in faith dependence to the One Who reminds, “Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5), we, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, feel ourselves out of sorts with life, crying against the sea of troubles that tosses us. We say the angry word, hastily utter the caustic remark, ridiculously assuming that following our own course through the God-ordained trial will somehow be safer.

However, standing in contrast to walking after our own way is following the way of meekness. As we habitually depend on God, our attitude toward negative circumstances and unkind people will not be “like treats like” but will rather be full of God’s gentleness and meekness, for this Christ-like spirit views such calamities as opportunities to access grace to meet daily challenges and needs; further, it envisions difficulties as stepping stones to higher ground. Henry explains it this way: “Meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time.”

Meekness’ opposite is selfishness. “My” way, “my” time, even “my” responsibilities can encroach upon my retaining a meek and quiet spirit. In such situations, I must replace the self-dependent life with the life of the Savior, Who lived on earth, a perfect example of meekness. He obeyed the Father, submitted willingly to God’s commands for His life, responded in grace to the forty-day temptation in the wilderness, and died a humiliating death.

Certainly Christ offers the perfect example of meekness. Matthew 21:5 explains how Christ entered Jerusalem: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” Not a noble stallion—that will be later when he enters the world as Triumphal King—but a humble donkey was the means of transporting God the Son through the streets of Jerusalem that day. They called Him the King of the Jews, but how noble did He appear to them, entering the city in such a manner? In Matthew 11:29, our Example of Meekeness commands, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Meekness is the “way out,” like the exit signs that dot the London subway system. Curving through life on the train track of self, there is a way out. Christ’s way, the way of escape, is promised in I Corinthians 10:13, where God promises that He “will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

In sum, Henry concludes, “Gentleness or meekness is the opposite [of] self-assertiveness and self-interest. . . . This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will.” To further illustrate the Holy Spirit’s part in bringing about meekness, consider Moses, the meekest man: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Moses certainly understood what it meant to depend upon God. It was Moses that heard God utter the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and exemplified that primary mandate for the children of Israel by humbly submitting his will so frequently to the God he served as he led the complaining, griping, disobedient lot of people through the wilderness in a generally meek frame of mind. It was Moses who spent forty days and forty nights without bread or water on the mount with God, receiving these commandments from God’s mouth. It was Moses who, upon returning from the mount, spent forty more days and nights without bread or water, entreating God for mercy upon the children of Israel. (Combined, Moses spent a total of almost eighty days straight without food, waiting, depending fully on God.) This is humility—trusting God for all needs and believing He will fill all desires. Certainly Moses was of the number who are satisfied in the Lord, for “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” and “The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 29:19).

But more importantly than the man Moses’ example of meekness, God Himself possesses such a spirit. Psalm 18:35 records, “Thy gentleness [also translated "meekness"] hath made me great.” What a beautiful truth to consider when teaching others! Meekness assists students, children, and others to become what God wants them to be. It is a teaching method used by God Himself to make His children great. The meek response of the teacher, the coach, the parent—can help lay the groundwork for a great future generation! The gentle methods that the meek teacher uses, the patient ways, instill a praiseworthy spirit and one that bears fruit in the lives of many to come!

May this day and every subsequent one this year find me adorned with the ornament of meekness!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Perfection of Beauty

A winding pathway through a deciduous forest at the pinnacle of autumn, its canopy a tapestry of gold, crimson, and amber, beckons Midwesterners as the weather cools each passing day throughout September and into October. Viewing the blazing hues of magnificent maples and majestic oaks, one wonders if perhaps this picturesque display defines beauty. A tourist of Costa Rica thinks otherwise. Awakening each morning to the call of the gulls along the breathtaking coastal waters, a perfect azure set against a clear sky, the traveler is convinced he has experienced the perfection of beauty. But on the pages of Scripture, all of which attest to the glory of our great God, a unique perspective on beauty can be found. And should not the perfect God who created beauty be able to present to readers of His sacred text another dimension to this oft-misunderstood word?

Indeed, our God, Who is “fairer than the children of men” (Ps. 45:2), can show His beauty to us. Did not David relate that his chief desire was “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life that he might behold the beauty of the Lord”? According to Psalm 50: 2, this beautiful God, Who is both perfection and beauty, has shined out of Zion, the “perfection of beauty.” What is it exactly that makes Zion so perfectly beautiful?

Translated literally, Zion means “parched place.” Yet in this dry soil of the Middle East is located the place God chose from all eternity to be the earthly tabernacle for Messiah. It is the setting where the first temple was built to the holy God of Heaven, and even more significant, is the location that the greatest sacrifice for all mankind was made. It is not the land’s form nor comeliness but rather its relationship to its Maker that makes it of special significance to God.

In like manner, believer, you may take heart. As the city of Jerusalem has been designated by God as part of His special plan, God also calls you His chosen. As Zion's barren spot of earth boasts little natural beauty, you too may feel your outward attractiveness greatly lacking. However, if you are rightly related to your Maker, you can be likened to the image of His Son. The Perfection of Beauty, your lovely Savior, can transform you into His image, with His likeness reflected throughout every part of you being. As you allow His Spirit to transform your life, you will, in the words of Ephesians 4:13, “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” In you, believer, God's beauty can be made perfect!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Than the Voice of Many Waters

Rushing rapids, tumbling over rocks in the stream below, cascade ever downward. Crashing water topples, sheet upon sheet of foaming white. The glorious Mist Trail of Yosemite National Park showers hikers from the immense Nevada and the Vernal Falls, but two of the glorious falls we viewed while in Yosemite National Park. At its peak, Yosemite Valley Waterfalls, North America’s highest waterfalls, drops 135,000 gallons of water each minute.

My husband and I hiked Yosemite’s Mist Trail the first week of June when snow on the mountains was melting, providing a perfect source for the gushing streams. As we advanced gingerly down the mountainside, we positioned our feet carefully into rock crevices, deliberately avoiding falling from the slippery rocks, as we shielded ourselves from the spray, avoiding the mist of the crashing tumult.

Time and again as we approached the numerous waterfalls in this glorious valley, I was reminded of Revelation 1:15, “[Christ’s] voice as the sound of many waters.” This voice, which spoke the worlds into existence, dwarfs the most astounding waterfall. This voice, its powerful speech recorded in the everlasting Word of God, likewise astounds with power and majesty as it convicts, corrects, reproves, and sharpens. This voice speaks eternal words, mighty words, words that will never perish. This magnificent voice need not be viewed only in select places on earth, but everywhere God’s Word is published this majesty can be enjoyed, its breathtaking wonderment astounding any who dare to list to its resplendent resonance. Daily such a view can be mine. May I, like Billy Sunday, experience such magnificence as I daily interact with this ever-powerful voice:

“I entered through the portico of Genesis and walked down through the Old Testament's art gallery, where I saw the portraits of Joseph, Jacob, Daniel, Moses, Isaiah, Solomon and David hanging on the wall; I entered the music room of the Psalms and the Spirit of God struck the keyboard of my nature until it seemed to me that every reed and pipe in God's great organ of nature responded to the harp of David, and the charm of King Solomon in his moods.

"I walked into the business house of Proverbs.

"I walked into the observatory of the prophets and there saw photographs of various sizes, some pointing to far-off stars or events--all concentrated upon one great Star which was to rise as an atonement for sin.

"Then I went into the audience room of the King of Kings, and got a vision from four points--from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I went into the correspondence room, and saw Peter, James, Paul and Jude, penning their epistles to the world. I went into the Acts of the Apostles and saw the Holy Spirit forming the Holy Church, and then I walked into the throne room and saw a door at the foot of a tower and, going up, I saw One standing there, fair as the morning, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and I found this truest friend that man ever knew; when all were false I found him true" (Billy Sunday Speaks [New York: Chelsea House, 1970], p. 23).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thoughts on Quietness

I Thessalonians 4:11, "And that ye study to be quiet . . ."

The placid waters of the lake mirrored the surrounding trees. Calmly, three swans graced through the stillness, leaving a clearly marked path. Nothing seemed to move on the azure, glass-like waters. But three days later, the waters crashed and roared against the rocks below. Billows of foamy waves washed onto the shore, driving ships awry and stranding swimmers, who clung desperately to the hope that the man who had disappeared beneath the waves would once again resurface. How could these waters so dramatically shift with time? No visible cause was apparent, but the great moving wind, the unseen powers of storm--had combined to bring a hurricane.

Too often, the heart of a woman can easily shift from one of implicit trust in God to one of fretful care and worry.

Lamentations 3:26 states, "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD." And yet, in our many endeavors of life we often wear a cloak of worry instead of one of waiting. When I am not heeding the Holy Spirit's voice, that quiet heart of I Thessalonians 4:11 eludes me. Typically analytical, it is natural for me to want to figure out a situation, without casting the whole lot into the lap of my Savior. Too often have I lived in the storm-like conditions of a billowing soul, failing to "rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him" (Psalm 37:7). However, with the aid of God's Holy Spirit and through the transforming power of God's Word, I have seen a growth in the spirit of rest that "sits still and waits for the salvation of God" (Exodus 14:13).

Being quiet. Paul directs this command specifically to the Thessalonican Christians, and Peter makes it plain that Christian women in particular are to diligently adorn themselves with this beautiful gemstone.

The diamond glistened every direction I turned it. I was proud of the newly acquired gemstone on my ring finger and found myself glancing at it, turning it, admiring it whenever I sat in the light. The platinum band supported the gleaming gem, and whenever I showed my engagement ring, people remarked on the glistering quality of this precious stone. My fiance had gotten the highest quality cut, so that the diamond caught the light rays and bounced them off most beautifully.

But there is another gem that glistens more beautifully the more it is exposed to Light. It is of the finest cut and catches the Light, giving off a rainbow of colors in many directions. In fact, it is far more precious than the ring I wear each day, being indestructible and, in the sight of God "of great price." Furthermore, wearing it follows God's command in I Peter 3:4, to "let [women's adorning] be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet [or "peaceable"] spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (I Peter 3:4). This gemstone is hidden in the heart, that most important location, which, with all earnest diligence is to be guarded, since out of it are the "issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

To have this attribute of quietness, we must have the Spirit of peace in our lives. He alone produces such fruit in believers (Galatians 5:22-23). Born again women possess this indwelling Spirit but must submit to Him, if they will also bear His fruit, namely this peaceable spirit. As unnatural as it is for us to attain this priceless gem of quietness on our own, peace can become a normal state of mind--not an unexpected event on the road of life--as we daily yield to the Spirit's leadership in our lives.