Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Man, The Boy, and the Donkey: A Reminder from an Ancient Fable





I include here a fable by Aesop for your enjoyment:

"A MAN and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

 “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:  PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE."  (Source:  Bartleby.com)


While this fable was written back in the sixth century B.C., the truth it contains is as valid today as it was then.

In our 21st century culture, voices abound.  Some speak strongly, convinced they are right.  And perhaps their voices contain a bit of truth.  Others speak authoritatively, insisting their way is the correct one.  Their thoughts, too, may include certain elements of verity.  In sifting through the ideas around us, however, we can respond in a double-minded fashion, tossing and turning with every wind of doctrine that comes to our ears, or we can be stedfast in the truth.

As children of God, we must evaluate everything by Scripture, weighing all things, pondering every idea in the light of God's eternal Book.  Voices abound, but God's eternal Voice is what matters.  


May God fill us with His righteous judgments and transform our thinking with His Word!  In patterning our lives after this eternal truth, we can please God with our lives and, in the courts of eternity, rejoice to hear commendation from the One Whose opinion lasts eternally, the God of Heaven!

We can trust our God of truth and can order our lives by His every precept.  From the many voices that surround us, then, let us set our course by this Book and please our eternal God!

Certain folks may mock and jeer.  Some too may scowl or scorn.  Yet others may laugh outright.  But if we order our lives in His Word, we can actually please the One Whose opinion is truth and Whose truth completely matters.

While we might please few men, we can please an eternal God.

And isn't that what life is all about anyway?


Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Cloak of Meekness (Meekness, Part 4)


The gray suit hung in the closet.  To my fifth grade mind, the matching skirt and blazer was my mother’s most beautiful outfit.  In it, she looked stylish.  And beautiful.

Our annual trip to Olan Mills that year saw my mom wearing that lovely gray suit.  A matching blouse, burgundy-edged ruffles down the center, contrasted beautifully to the outfit’s slender silhouette.  Now, the photo hangs on a wall in my grandmother’s living room and each time I see it, I’m reminded just how much I liked that outfit on my mother. 

But the gray suit has long since been gone from my mother’s closet.  A piece of clothing that still hangs in her spiritual wardrobe, however, is of far more lasting value.  It is a garment that graces her spirit, and I often had the opportunity to observe that she took special precaution to make certain it was in its proper place before she began her day.  “Put on..." Colossians 3:12 commands, "bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”  Indeed, gracing the wardrobe of the well-dressed saint of God is the garment of meekness.  It can be worn at all times, for it is ever needed, always in style in God’s catalog of fashion.

“Clothes make the man,” proclaims a famous epigram.  By the same token, one might write, “Meekness makes the woman”; for in God’s design, this garment is highly prized.  Its expensive texture wraps beautifully around the spirit of the God-honoring lady of virtue.  Its grace adds comeliness to her every act of service.  In a word, meekness is essentially humility—a mind and heart completely surrendered to God, evidenced in a spirit that is dressed exquisitely for every occasion.  Thus, whether mistreated by others, questioned in her role, defied in her position, or snubbed in her relationships, the meek and godly woman can calmly embrace any circumstance if she is clothed with the garment of self-denying meekness.


Meekness is an evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life, and yet it must be purposefully put on.  Nearly every morning as I descended the stairs, I would catch a glimpse of my mother at the kitchen table, Bible outspread before her, pondering the Word of God.  At meal times or as we worked alongside her, she would recount how God had worked in her life through His Word that day.  And, as a result, a beautiful spirit was part of her daily existence.   

How do we go about putting on meekness as readily as we put on clothes in the morning? Colossians 3:10 indicates that, at salvation, we put on the new man, but this new man is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”  I believe that renewing our minds is key to our procedure of “putting on.”   And God's Word teaches that such renewal occurs through the Scripture.  Thus, purposeful meditation upon texts dealing with meekness (and meekness’ opposite—selfishness and pride), will continually renew our minds, so that we become continually transformed into the image of Christ.

The spirit of meekness is observed by the world about us, but it often starts in a very unseen way--our attitude toward the word of God. Because God’s Word is alive--it is not a dead book--we can stand in awe of it, whatever that Word is and whenever it is given.  Since God has created and fashioned us, He will give us understanding "according to His Word."  This transformational Word is the Sword the Spirit uses to defeat every enemy in our lives.  With this sufficient Word, then, our mind are renewed and our spirits are prepared to be adorned in the clothing of meekness!


When our hearts are clothed with the meekness that God alone supplies, we will readily receive the inspired words of God.  Isaiah 61:1 states, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” I quote Gill’s iteration of the meek as: 
       
       "such as are sensible of sin, and humbled for it; submit to the righteousness of Christ; ascribe all they have to the grace of God and have a mean opinion of themselves, and patiently bear every affliction: or "poor," as in Lu 4:18, the poor of this world, and as to their intellectuals, and spirit, who are sensible of their spiritual poverty, and seek the true riches, to these the Gospel is "good tidings"; and to such Christ preached good tidings concerning, the love, grace, and mercy of God . . ."

Springing from his quote, let us consider that meekness starts with a sensitivity to sin.  As a holy God who will not tolerate sin, our Lord desires “truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6).  Conscious of this truth, the meek will not tolerate sin in themselves.  Constant yielding upon the Spirit’s prompting will be a normal attribute.  The meek see themselves as deficient, lacking and desperately needing the graces of God’s Spirit to fill them.  An abiding awareness of the riches of Christ in contrast to their own miserable self—such an attitude makes them ready to hear God’s voice. 


Poverty-stricken countries lack adequate food supply, medical resources, safe water, and good sanitation.  Those suffering from health conditions are unable to be assisted in such lands and lack proper care.  In a similar way, the poor in spirit sees himself as spiritually poverty-stricken.  He lacks adequate understanding.  In himself, he can accomplish nothing.  Only as he is fed by the Spirit of God with the sustenance of the Scripture can his needs be met.  

The meek ones’ spirit of dependence causes them to arise immediately in the morning, knowing that another day is in store and, in order to properly serve God and others, they must be fed at Christ’s table.  Jesus is their portion and without His eternal bread filling them, they will be incapable of meeting the demands of their day.  Their poverty of spirit takes God’s words seriously and doubts their own opinion severely.  Every word from God is quickening and life-giving.  No commands are optional.  A gloomy day zaps not their spirit.  An especially full schedule robs them not of fellowship with God.  A thankless person moves them not from their uplifting of God’s eternal book.


Whenever preaching is heard in their church, the meek, knowing the desperation of their own need, “despise not prophesyings” (I Thess. 5:20).  They know that God looks, not to the intellectually astute, nor to the analytically gifted “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2).  They have a very high regard for the Word of God, even trembling before it.  They weigh it in their minds, consider it deeply, and let it accomplish its transformative work in their hearts.  Whenever God’s Word is opened, whenever even the newest babe offers biblical words—the meek heart receives truth.

The meek take correction and, most importantly, it is these to whom the Lord reveals His Spirit and gives His Word.  Preaching is “good tidings.”  The Word is seen as a benefit, as a blessing.  Such is the heart attitude when clothed with meekness.  Seeing our own desperate need, we cling to the precious truths from Scripture and let them transform us, viewing all biblical preaching, teaching, correction, and reproof as “good tidings” to our needy souls!

In responding appropriately to God’s Word, then, we allow God’s Spirit to clothe us with meekness—a garment that is supernaturally and divinely produced.  Something exquisitely designed by the Spirit of God.  An evidence of His work in our lives.  Such is the cloak of meekness.