Saturday, October 29, 2016

Faith: The Path of the Meek (Meekness, Part 6)

Do you ever feel inundated by advertising?  On the stretch of freeway that extends past O'Hare Airport in Chicago, the amount of information that reaches the typical driver can be somewhat overwhelming in those several miles of roadway as brands, stores, and shows are featured as the best and most preferred.
Some time ago, I considered what a different place this world would be if we would see advertised upon the road of life billboards displaying products for a Heavenly Kingdom.  One such company I envisioned was Faithwear.  Its commercials might go something like this:
“Put on Faithwear’s glasses and change your perspective!  You’ll see the world with much clearer vision.  Not only will every blade of grass and each twinkling star magnify the Creator, but so will your daily tasks be transformed as you encounter a fresh view of God.  Look upon your every task and each relationship and perceive our glorious Creator, Who has revealed Himself in each aspect of His creation. 
“Mothers, see those children to whom you minister as strong men in God’s service.  Employees, see those potentially frustrating moments in your daily schedule as opportunities to praise God—to rejoice because God’s mercies are better than life itself.  Children, see every rebuke as a correction of love, offered to you from heaven, borne from God’s own throne.
“Our new brand of hearing aids assist you in perceiving with the ears of faith.  Mothers, hear not the crying infant nor the complaining child, but the voice of the Master saying, ‘I was in all points tempted as you are, yet without sin.’  
“You’ll be amazed at how our products transform the senses.  So try some to day! And the fantastic part of all our specialty goods is that they will cost you nothing but a willing mind, a broken spirit, and a contrite heart.  Pay no money, but offer yourself as a living sacrifice, willing to enjoy God’s perspective.  Faith comes by hearing (hence you must have the right heart attitude), and hearing by the Word of God.  So, once you’re outfitted with the right spirit, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Investigate His Word, meditate upon it, live it, and you, too, will be transformed by Faithwear! 
“Faithwear.  Don’t live life without it.”
      But instead of Faithwear, the sight perspective crowds upon our lives, drowning out the message of faith, the perspective which truly satisfies.  When I see with the eyes of faith, I note not the Peter who doubted Christ nor the disciple who denied him but see instead the martyr who hung upside down upon a cross, meekly offering his body, refusing to die in the same way as his Lord and Master.  Every brother and sister in Christ I view as vibrant, victorious Christians, slaying the enemy in their daily lives by the sword of the spirit, which they grasp firmly in hand. 
I look past the difficulties of this turbulent world, the sea upon which heaps of discarded, wasted lives have been cast—and see that beautiful potential which Christ has for every life, a pathway of peace, which He desires for each of His own.  Social media outlets might yield some discouraging realities concerning the direction individuals have chosen, but instead of being overcome by such unbiblical decisions, I can view all with the eyes of faith.  The meek sees that, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”  The meek understands that if Christ’s best earthly friend denied Him, I too have the possibility of doing so.  The meek one realizes that the flesh is strong, for even Lot himself vexed his righteous soul from day to day, living among the sinners in Sodom.  The meek one is satisfied—ultimately, from God Alone—realizing that no sense-driven feeling can replace the solid relationship of a walk with the Almighty. 
When Discouragement rears its misshapen head, when Defeat casts down its deathly gaze, when Despair tears in, tantamount to her temper, the meek one eats, satisfied, at the table of Wisdom.  Christ has furnished His table, mingled His wine, and set abundant provisions for those who recognize their need to dine there!  He has built His house and prepared an abundant spread for His hungry guests.  His bread and beverages satisfy, contrasting with the fodder of fools, the taste of which leaves only a mouthful of gravel. (Prov. 20:17). 
Oh, to seek the Lord at His table each day, to recognize our inadequacy, our inability, our insufficiency!  This recognition is part of meekness, for the meek one realizes she has no strength in herself and thus seeks the Lord, finding Him satisfactory.  After dining at His table, she notes that fruits of folly look less attractive.  The delicacies of the devil appear as they are—not delicious, but deceitful.  That wrong thought is smitten by recalling a personal feast at His table, and praise daily perfumes her breath as those moments with her dear Savior linger in her memory, for she has dined with Him, her Satisfaction. 
Dear Sister, is this your state?  Do you revel in God’s meditations?  Do you find yourself often encouraged by His Word?  Like the psalmist, can you pray, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou has caused me to hope.  This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy word hath quickened me” (Ps. 119:49-50)?  Upon what word is your hope today?  This abundance of wisdom is available to you.  Feast at the Savior’s table.  Let your hungry soul be satisfied.  How your heart will live forever when Christ is your daily Bread! Your heart, sound in God’s statutes, will live; you will be unashamed when you stand before Him if this feast is your daily reality (Ps. 119:80)! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

For the Praise of His Glory

             Jerusha’s footsteps resonated down the barren corridors.  What had once been commensurate with the grandest of palaces was lying waste, as it had been for generations.  Doors, stripped of their brass when her great-grandmother was a child, lay in miserable heaps like fractured kindling.  Miniscule fragments of golden pottery occasionally caught the glint of sunlight and sparkled amidst piles of dust.  She sneezed.  The resounding echo sent a rat scurrying from where it had been peeping its eyes from atop a thread-bare shroud that must have once been an immaculate indigo curtain.  Heading east, she met three broken oxen that had once held up a magnificent sea of brass, but only one beast remained with eyes still intact.  Those glassy features seemed to eerily follow her wherever she went. 

To think that this had once been a palace for HER GOD!  Once the most glorious and magnificent of temples—now a ruined heap of rubble. 
The young woman had now come center-court.  She knew from the scrolls which her father had stolen that this was the very place King Solomon had prayed.  In front of the Lord’s altar, facing the Israelite congregation he had stood, spreading forth his hands in prayer.  Imagine—the king of a united Israel seeking the God of all?  It was something she had never seen in her lifetime.  Ever since she could remember—ever since her father and mother could remember—they had been captives--slaves to uncircumcised kings who knew not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

She closed her eyes, imagining how that glorious day must have been when this brand new temple had first been dedicated.  Everything pristine—perfectly orderly—as it should be.  How the king’s words must have resounded as they bounced off the beautiful fixtures in the new temple:

“But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built!  Have respect therefore unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God…That Thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof Thou wouldest put thy name there . . .” (2 Chron. 6:18-20).

God’s name.  What had happened?  Where was God now?  Certainly not in the midst of this confusion.  Truly He was not piled in heaps as were the battered fittings.  Oh, what must the nations think when looking at the RUINED condition of this magnificent temple to the one, true God?
Sitting down to weep, Jerusha seemed to hear strains of Solomon’s prayer drifting down the halls of the centuries. 

“And if Thy people Israel be put to the worse before the enemy, because they have sinned against Thee, and shall return and confess Thy name, and pray and make supplication before Thee in this house; Then hear Thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which Thou gavest to them and to their fathers" (2 Chron. 6:24-25).  

            Kneeling, Jerusha prayed to the God she knew still existed.  She asked Jehovah for mercy, reiterating the words of King Solomon, who had asked Him to hear, forgive, and bring her people back to the place where they could freely worship Him again in this once- glorious city.
            Yes, the nation of Israel had been captive to enemies for centuries, so much so that her generation, those "people that [were to be] born" and were to hear and share in the wonders of the God of Heaven (Ps. 22:31), could not experience His greatness in this house as their ancestors had.      
            The temple had been ransacked by enemy kings, who pirated its gold.  It had experienced disgrace by godless Israelite rulers, who traded its riches for peace with surrounding nations.  

            Not unlike that temple, believers today are God’s temple, designed with a magnificent purpose of worship to the holy One who created them.  Indeed, we are to be “to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:6).
             In fact, Solomon’s temple, marred of its original beauty, can remind us of our own bodies and spirits as believers—the place of habitation of the most Holy God.  Do we continually glorify Him in this place where He resides?  Are we frequently filled with His beauty, or do we allow other things to stand in the way of His rule?  Are our attitudes wholly and continually filled with His Spirit?  And how do we know?  According to Ephesians 5:18 and following, one manifestation of the Spirit’s rule in our hearts is our own singing to God.
            The Spirit's filling results in our singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."  Such songs to God praise Him in our bodies and spirits, which are His.  We can choose to glorify Him upon first rising, throughout our daily tasks, and in what many view as “mundane routines” of life.  In so doing, we will often experience inexpressible joy!  These words in song, flowing from a full heart of worship to our God, allow our Lord to be glorified in our own “temple."  
             In responding with joy, we elevate God and find resultantly how much more easily words of thanks for “all things" flow from our lips!  Even that difficult thing.  That hard task.  That seemingly impossible situation.  
             For the words to those songs have riveted our attention to the place where we can best find fulfillment and satisfaction—the blessed, triumphant cross of Jesus Christ, the glories of the resurrection life, and the victory that is possible because of Him.  What delight enters the spirit as we choose God’s channel of joy! 

           A few weeks ago, finding myself especially worn from the many activities of the day, I considered these truths about praising God in spite of tiredness.  I still had much to accomplish and, when I returned home, determined to go about my kitchen work with a song in my heart, singing hymns to God as I packed lunches for the next day.  How joy-filled and refreshed I felt just twenty minutes later!  My bodily fatigue had been transformed by the Spirit’s infusion of joy.  Another time recently I had the task of cleaning the church building in weeks quite close together.  Each time as I worked, I scrolled through a mental list of memorized psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  The vacuum drowned out my voice as I happily sang above its drone.  Those special times of cleaning actually deepened my walk with God, for His truth had been my meditation. 

            The temples of our bodies will one day be gone.  While we are the stewards of these dwellings of God, let us glorify Him in them!  Rust and decay ought never scuff the surface of our heart’s furniture as we daily offer the sacrifice (indeed, in a tired or work-worn condition, it really seems a sacrifice) of thankful praise!

 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice 
of praise to God continually, 
that is, the fruit of our lips 
giving thanks to his name (Heb. 13:15).