Worrisome Worry!

Thur., Feb. 10/22

I worry. I worry terribly at times, and, like many Christians who worry, why I worry confuses me! I trust in Christ. I know He will not abandon me… I know He loves me and is the source of all peace… I know He yet says, “Fear not..,” He asks, “Why do you give thought…” Yet, I do.

We Christians tend to swiftly relegate such matters as worry into the realm of faithlessness, sin, or questionable profession. But I have learned through many years and struggles that worry may not be so much a sin, as it is an enemy.

Prayer, a disciplined mind, Christian fellowship and the truth of God’s Word are all excellent tools to be employed in the defeat of this foe. But excellent also are the tools of good sleep, balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, wholesome activities, and when necessary, medication.

Using pharmaceutical tools to make right chemical imbalances in the brain is not different than using mechanical tools such as casts or crutches to make right physical imbalances in the body. I should not disdain a man with a broken wrist if, in addition to his prayers for recovery, he should also wear a brace or take painkillers. Nor should I disdain the saint who, in addition to all spiritual means, uses properly prescribed medications or psychological tools to aid in his recovery.

In the classic “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge, in denial of the spectre of Christmas past which he sees before him, says to the sight, “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

But no, the visage did not vanish. Scrooge had to see the worrisome thing through, and so might we. When we do, we do not need the added burden of guilt over our worry. But when we see worry more clearly as a foe we can take aim at it more accurately.

Some people seem to embrace worry… to wear it on their sleeve as though it were an indicator of great virtue. But it is not. Thus, Christ says, “Worry not.” He points to the worry-free creatures and elements of His broader creation as examples (see Luke 12:22-32) setting for us a standard… a goal.

“A great many people… seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.” – The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

Our Lord loves us, embraces us, and wants us in return to embrace Him. We have many evils and enemies in this present world, and we must combat them with all the tools He makes available to us – be they spiritual, practical, or medical.

Press on…

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Conviction vs Condemnation

Wed., Feb. 9/22

Toward the end of His ministry Jesus explained to His disciples the fact of His departure and of the coming of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Until this time His people had only the written Law as their guide; there was no one person to whom they could look who kept the Law perfectly, and there was no indwelling Spirit of God to guide them. When Jesus was about to return to the Father He explained to His disciples about the Spirit’s coming and function…

The Holy Spirit Convicts the Soul

In the believer the Holy Spirit is their dearest Friend. He “…will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.” (John 16:13-14, NLT). The Holy Spirit brings that sense of unity when Christians gather together. It is He Who speaks that inner “This is the way you should go” (Isa. 30:21), or Who at times just won’t let you do or say a thing (see Acts 16:6-10).

In the unbeliever the Holy Spirit is ‘the hound of heaven.’ He “…will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8). He brings the unsaved soul under the conviction – the undeniable knowing –that they have fallen short of God’s holiness. He convicts the soul of God’s righteous standard, of how one ought to behave, and He brings to the unsaved soul that horrible sense of dread of the judgment which awaits them. (see v. 9-11, NLT).

Satan Condemns the Soul

In the believer Satan is called the “Accuser” of the people of God (Rev. 12:10). Jesus said of him, “there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). The devil seeks to bring the believer down, to remind him of past sins and failures even though God has both forgiven and forgotten them (Isa. 43:25; Micah 7:19; Heb. 8:12). The truth is as Paul affirmed “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

In the unbeliever Satan works in much the same way, first luring the soul into sin, assuring him there is no God, no consequence for his actions, then, in the end bringing upon him the most severest dread!

In both the believer and the unbeliever the Holy Spirit Convicts out of love and with the goal of making us better, drawing us to or making us more like Christ. Satan Condemns out of hate and with the goal of making us worse, more like himself. We ought respond to the Holy Spirit’s Conviction by confession and correction. We ought respond to Satan’s Condemnation by turning to or claiming the Truth of God’s Word and deliverance by Christ Jesus.

Press on…

Can You Imagine?

Tue., Feb. 8/22

“I was there!” shouts Peter.  “We have not been telling you fairy tales,” he writes. “My own eyes have seen I heard…” (2 Pet. 1:16-18, TLB). John was also there on that mount. He too describes his knowing in tangible, visual, terms. “I myself have seen Him with my own eyes and listened to Him speak. I have touched Him with my own hands” (1 John 1:1).

Matthew gives more detail: “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” They saw also Moses and Elijah, the bright cloud that covered them, and they heard. They heard the Father’s Voice coming from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” At the sound of it, records Matthew, “they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.” (Matt. 17:1-6).

John later describes the spectacle of His magnificence as he saw Him on Patmos – no longer a swaddling-clothed infant, nor a seamless-robed teacher, but One

wearing a long robe circled with a golden band across His chest. His hair was white as wool or snow, and His eyes penetrated like flames of fire. His feet gleamed like burnished bronze, and His voice thundered like the waves against the shore. He held seven stars in His right hand and a sharp, double-bladed sword in His mouth, and His face shone like the power of the sun in unclouded brilliance.”

When I saw Him,” John relates, “I fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:13-17).

Yet, despite the overwhelming magnitude of his experience John is able to pick up quill and write. Peter, though utterly awed, can say “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” and even suggest a construction project (Matt. 17:4). Mortality communing with the Immortal, Creature conversing with Creator! Yet all these are but precursors of the final reality. Ponders Chrysostom,

“What then will we say, when the very reality of those things is made known, when the palace gates are thrown open, and we are allowed to look on the King Himself: no longer through a glass darkly, but face to face – no longer by faith, but by sight!” – John Chrysostom (344-407 AD)

I can only imagine!

Press on…

Link to the song, “I Can Only Imagine!” – Artist: MercyMe, Album: The Worship Project, Released: 1999.

Made for Another World

Mon., Feb. 7/22

“Oh! Won’t it be wonderful!” beamed Alice, eyes dancing as she shared with me her anticipation of heaven.  Alice, now 93, often spoke of heaven when I visited her in the nursing home. Her room contained very few possessions and the things she did have placed around her were mostly to do with her faith, her family, or her medical care needs. A well-worn bedside Bible, framed photos of family or gifts from grandchildren, an inhaler, call button, walker.

Alice wanted little from this life. She had laid up all her treasures in heaven, and was eager to complete that one last move.

“What have I got to worry about!?” scowled Peter, knowing he too had but a few days more on this earth.

“I’m ready!” said Bessy, having grown tired of the troubles of this world.

“I just want to go home!” ached Samantha, wearied by her uncomfortable longevity.

Elizabeth lay dying in her hospital bed. At times she spoke confusedly, at other times with crystal coherency. She motioned me closer, “I’m concerned about the lady in the next bed,” she whispered, “I don’t think she’s saved.” Elizabeth herself had only days left and knew it. Elizabeth knew too that wonderful destination before her. It was well with her soul and she held for herself only an excited, though medically sedated, anticipation.

Others with whom I have spoken held to no such hope. They had fallen into that pit like Solomon, in which one sees only “the things that are done under the sun,” and concluded “all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Eccl. 1:14). These souls often die by suicide.

C.S. Lewis offers great insight here. He acknowledges the insufficiency of this world to satisfy, yet from that very insufficiency reasons the reality beyond. He says,

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

Speaking of His soon departure Jesus assured His disciples, “Where I am going… you will follow later.” (John 13:36). “I go and prepare a place for you… I will… take you to be with me… I am the way…” (John 13:36; 14:3, 6).

There is no satisfaction, no hope in this world. Yet we are drawn to seek it. We are drawn because there is such a world. We were made for that other world, and only Christ can lead us to it.

Press on…

All above incidents are true. Names only have been changed.

Important Birthdays

Fri., Feb. 4/22

Three very important men were born on this day! In 1902 American aviator Charles Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan. In 1906 German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland). In 1987 Canadian programmer Nathaniel John McLean was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The first we know because of his accomplishments. The second we know because of his insightful writings. The third I suspect many readers may not know, but I know him because he is my son, my only son. Of the lot of them his birthday is foremost on my mind and the only one of the above marked on my calendar.

Although he too is capable of many great accomplishments and insightful writings he need not demonstrate any of these to ever remain the one most dear to my heart, the one in whose life and welfare and needs I am most vitally involved and interested. Why? Because, as I have said, he is my son and always will be. Him I know because of relationship. Relationship always trumps performance.

What is obvious to any parent about their love for their children often escapes the child of God: Relationship is why God loves His children too!

To all born anew into the family of God Christ says, “…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50). And what is that most essential will of the Father? He says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). To believe! To trust Christ, turning from sin, loving and obeying Him – this is all that is required to become a child of God.

John marveled, “Beloved, now we are children of God…” (1 John 3:2a), and Jesus Himself assures, “…the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27). He teaches to pray: “Our Father in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9).

Yet we scurry about like Martha making things presentable, as if He’d not already seen our recent chaos. Like Pharisees we tithe the minutest mint, fast three times in the week, read, and study, and memorize. All fine and well, but in no way prerequisites of His love for us. Before we did any of them He loved us. In fact, the gospel is clear: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

Come to Him in simple childlike dependency. To be “born again” (John 3:3) will be your best birthday ever!

Press on…

No Dark Nooks in Heaven

Thur., Feb. 3/22

Heaven is not a place you, as one who trusts in our Lord, will merely visit; it is a place you will move to, sight unseen, by one-way ticket, with no return — a place you will be… forever!

Now I know I may have you puzzled by stating this, but I suspect few Christians really ponder the permanency of eternity. Gone will be those little indulgences, all entertainments of flesh, coffee shop klatches, video games, texting, vain ‘selfies’ and haute couture. There will be no ‘Big Macs,’ super-sized soft drinks or caviar in Heaven. No opportunities for competitive one-upmanship, no braveries, no marriage, no credit cards, capitalism or even money. All these things will have served their purpose… all will be gone… forever.

Granted, in heaven there will be things much better. But understand this: it is not a place where all your present heart’s desires will be met. Many of those desires are yet carnal. With all evil removed, hearts will be changed. New hearts with new desires. New wine with new wineskins.

What are you doing now to prepare for this heart surgery? Are there things you ought now work to wean from your wishes? Goals that must go for they will very soon become pointless? Are there thoughts, world views, values, or viewpoints which need to be reviewed, and new ones, from above, applied?

On this, Chambers comments:

“There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it. God is determined to make you pure, holy, and right, and He will not allow you to escape from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit for even one moment.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 1 entry.

You alone know the true state of these things. Today, I ask you only to ponder them… listen… imagine… then, where needed, act. Our Lord intends to make us holy, and He will. Today I urge you to get used to that idea… and as best you can to reach for that ideal.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” (Luke 12:35-37).

Not that such efforts can earn us merit, but they may help acclimatize us just a wee bit for what we shall be… forever.

Press on…

Only 325 days till Christmas!

Wed., Feb. 2/22

Its true! — As of today there are only 325 days until Christmas! I know we don’t usually start counting the days to Christmas until the pear tree arrives, but it’s an easy calculation to make if you know today is “Candlemas!”

According to the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica Candlemas* marks the 40th day after Christmas, the day on which the Virgin Mary would have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem for purification in accordance with Jewish law and the day on which she presented her firstborn son, Jesus, to God. (see Luke 2:22–38).

During the Middle Ages the belief arose that on this day certain animals such as the badger awoke from their hibernation and made an appearance. It was said that if the animal saw its shadow, winter weather would continue six more weeks. If It did not see its shadow it meant the next six weeks would be mild. When German immigrants brought the idea to the United States the groundhog (or woodchuck) became the creature of scrutiny.

We do like to look forward rather than back, don’t we? Something “new,” something “upcoming,” always excites us. Advertisers know this, technology developers plan on it, and the fast-changing seasonal items on store shelves demonstrate it year-round.

But there is great value in looking back. By doing so we can better understand the context that brought us to today. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Looking back gives us insight into that process.

When we are looking forward, we are often thinking mostly about ourselves. What exciting thing is next to come my way? What must I prepare for in advance? Reminiscence and nostalgia are left for old age.

But when we look only for the next few frames of our lives we miss the plot and purpose which has gone into the whole movie. We miss seeing the BIG PiCTURE as God sees it. As C.S. Lewis observes, “History is a story written by the finger of God.” Today is our part in that epic; it behooves us to know the Mind of the Director.

If groundhogs really do come out for Candlemas they do it on cue by counting back, by knowing their place and duty in time. Do you? (See Esther 4:14).

Press on…

 * Also known as “the Purification of the Blessed Virgin,” or “the Presentation of the Lord.

Suppose I offered you a million dollars…

Tue., Feb. 1/22

Suppose I offered you a million dollars to walk up to a complete stranger and explain his or her need for salvation and God’s means of redemption through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ: Would you do it?

Let me suggest to you that if this incentive in any way alters your present behavior there is very definitely something wrong.

The equation is more accurately, yet still very poorly, illustrated if framed another, truer, way…

Suppose you owed a million dollars and some extremely wealthy benefactor paid this debt for you, then asked you to on his behalf deliver envelopes of like sums to other equally helpless debtors… to be an agent of his benevolence… to share with these recipients their great joy, gratitude and relief! Would you do that?

Would you — out of sheer gratitude and great desire to do something… anything… in return for this benefactor who had given you so much already — would you be his ambassador of this great gift and good news to others?

Let me suggest to you that to refuse him speaks the saddest of testimonies of you, the greatest selfishness of heart, and coldness of compassion toward others in the same great need that was also your own.

But there is great hope for your heart, for the matter can be reversed in an instant. Now, like Paul on the roadway of rebellion having seen a great light, this revelation can now Illumine your mind and heart also. You, like he, can turn about and walk a whole new path. — Will you?

Press on…

Slippery Slopes

Mon., Jan. 31/22

The intersecting street at the end of the one on which we live is named Hillcrest Drive, an apt name for it is located on the crest of a hill. In winter it is an especially apt name for once the less often ploughed sidewalks ice up “driving” is perhaps the safer strategy to traverse it.

I’ve had my good share of slips and falls over the years and accumulated the injuries to prove it. Some, like the cuts and the bruises can heal with time and TLC. Others, like the two detached rotator cuff muscles, will last my lifetime.

But feet are not the only anatomy subject to slippage. The tongue, James warns, can cause consequences far more costly! It is, he writes, “…a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

The schoolyard chant I remember from childhood: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” has been proven a falsehood. Damage done by some slips of the tongue may be reparable, but others can maim for decades. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” warns Solomon. (Prov. 18:21).

Jesus placed much emphasis on this potent power of the tongue. He said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matt. 12:35). He warns all, “…you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matt. 12:36-37).

Damages done by distasteful dialogue require immediate attention before they destroy one’s friend or deceive oneself. “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.” (Prov. 18:19, NLT). “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

So how do you “rein” your tongue? Well, if you are a human being, you can’t! For James also says “no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). But you can change what goes into your heart, the source of what comes out on your tongue. How? By inviting Christ to fill it. Only He Who is more than human can cleanse a mortal heart… fueling a wholesome tongue.

A sure step and a pure heart will help prevent you from slipping!

Press on…

Beware a Lopsided Limp

Fri., Jan. 28/22

For two years now societies worldwide have to varying degrees and for varying durations been placed in either self or legislated isolation to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus. As necessary, or as unnecessary, as this might be the impact on one’s spiritual life is the same. From the beginning we were designed for community and fellowship. As the Almighty said to the first man, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

“Beware of isolation,” writes Oswald Chambers. “It is impossible to develop a holy life alone; you will develop into an oddity and a peculiarism, into something utterly unlike what God wants you to be.”

Few of us have enjoyed this new, albeit temporary, fact of life, but we are an adaptive species. Habit very often trumps what we know to be better. Like the slow-cooking frog, we become adept at staying put, never leaping out from the familiarity which is destroying us. The deterioration is so slow we do not notice.

Think back. What was your spiritual walk like two years past? Did you fellowship with the saints more? Did you serve the needs of one-another more? Did you read your Bible, pray, witness, serve in ministry more? Did you feel the joy of the Lord in your heart more? Did you have more compassion for the suffering? What fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) were more evident? — what acts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)?

Chambers adds, “The only way to develop spiritually is to go into the society of God’s own children.” – Oswald Chambers, Biblical Psychology.

The present pandemic will soon be past. What sort of person will you be as you emerge from your solitude? Will you emerge from your solitude? I fear many may have convinced themselves that hermitage is better than community. But it is by our interactions in community that we are strengthened for the necessary times of solitude. Solitude and community each have their seasons, and are both, at their times, necessary. Bonhoeffer notes,

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

But as we have recently spent so much time in solitude, let us “beware” as Chambers has warned, lest our walk forward continues a lopsided limp.

Press on…

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