July 8, 2019

"Our hearts burning within us"

Two men are making their way “to a village named Emmaus”, discussing a recently crucified prophet named Jesus. They are dejected that perhaps He was not the Messiah after all, and they are not altogether buying in to the recent report of His resurrection. Somewhere along the way, though, the prophet Himself joins their party (unrecognized), begins conversing with them and, upon their voicing of their lack of faith, He rebukes them and gives them a conversational sermon, from all throughout the Scriptures, showing that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
They would later comment on His words like this: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

“Our hearts burning within us”! What an experience!

And it prompts me to ask: When was the last time you experienced such burning under the preaching, teaching, studying, or reading of the word?

Surely it is something we should experience. For, while it is true that the sermon in Acts 24 was delivered by none other than the Son of God Himself, yet it is also true that the biblical material that He preached is still available to us today (along with the New Testament, now, also!); and that the subject matter is still as wonderful as ever; and that Christ’s Spirit is still alive and well today, and more than capable of speaking through mere men (or working through simple Bible reading or personal Bible study) with such power that the effect will be the same as it was for those two blessed men in Luke 24! And so surely we ought, at times, to find “our hearts burning within us” under the word of God about the Son of God!

Pray that it might be so!

Pray that preachers and teachers will do precisely that which Jesus did, and which resulted in “hearts burning”: Pray that we will diligently open the treasure of the word of God, and faithfully bring out “the things concerning [the Son of God] in all the Scriptures”! And pray for yourself, that you will be diligent to read and study the Scriptures, and to look for Jesus there!

Pray, too, that those who preach and teach God’s word about God’s Son would do so “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Peter 1:12); pray for the power of the Spirit upon the proclamation and teaching of God’s word! Pray also for His anointing upon “the public reading of Scripture” – that we might experience “hearts burning” as the Bible is read aloud! And beg the Spirit’s anointing of your own study and reading of the word as well, that you might be deeply moved by what you see of Jesus there!

Plead with God that we would know – and know regularly – what it is to have “our hearts burning within us” under the Word of God about the Son of God!

February 18, 2019

"Like sheep without a shepherd"

“When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

Jesus and His disciples had just gotten away for a sabbatical of sorts (Mark 6:31). And so this wasn’t necessarily the most convenient time for a big group of people to show up. But, convenient or not, there they were. And Jesus’ response to them is beautiful, is it not? Even in this less-than-convenient moment, “He felt compassion for them”! Why? “Because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. And in His compassion, Jesus shepherded them – “He began to teach them many things” … “and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).

And we, too, have people in our lives who are “like sheep without a shepherd”, do we not? Let us respond to them like our Savior –“[feeling] compassion for them” and shepherding them! Perhaps God would have us, like Jesus (Matthew 14:14), help them with some temporal difficulty. And in many cases He would have us, like Jesus, “teach them” – telling them the good news of His Son, informing them of His will for human behavior, comforting them with words of His compassion.

Often they will wander into our paths as individuals, rather than in “a large crowd” as in Mark 6. Maybe one of your “sheep without a shepherd” will be a hurting neighbor to whom God would have you bring some comfort from His word. Or perhaps a spiritually confused co-worker to whom you will “explain … the way of God more accurately.” Maybe a debauched co-worker to whom God would have you (lovingly!) reveal His will for human morality. Possibly a homeless person whom you will bless with a hot meal and the message of the gospel. Or an unknown but apparently lonely senior citizen who calls out to you as you walk through the nursing home … to whom you could sit and listen for a spell, and also share some hope from the Scriptures.

These sheep may not always show up in our voicemails, or at our cubicles, or on our doorsteps, or in our pathways, or upon our consciences at the most opportune moments. But even in the inconvenient moments, let us, like Jesus, “[feel] compassion for them” and shepherd them.

Moreover, brothers and sisters, remember the compassion of “the good shepherd” toward you when “you were continually straying like sheep”* – and let it move you to extend such compassion to others!
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*(1 Peter 2:25, emphasis added)

February 1, 2019

‘I don’t think being silent is sufficient’

I read these words, recently, from a man who is hoping to start a crisis pregnancy center in his area:
‘It is a massive undertaking, but I don’t think being silent is sufficient. I trust that God will help us.’
And both his ‘massive undertaking’ itself, and his reason for undertaking it (the insufficiency of silence), were convicting. How much do I lift my voice on behalf of the unborn? How deeply am I bending my back, like this man, to the task of pushing back against the evil of abortion? Against the killing of the unborn in our land?

His efforts and reasoning reminded me of Proverbs 24:11-12 –
“Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, ‘See, we did not know this,’
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?”
Now, I don’t know whether Solomon had the unborn (perhaps among others) in mind when he wrote those two verses. But what he says surely applies to them! “Deliver those [unborn] who are being taken away to death”! “Oh hold them back”!

The brother above is faithfully attempting such “deliver[ance]”! And it convicts me. I’m helped, as well, by his ‘trust that God will help’ he and his co-laborers in the task. I’ll come back to this faith.

But first, let’s ask how we can join him in protecting the unborn. How do we undertake to “deliver those who are being taken away to death”? How do we put into practice the truth that silence is insufficient in the face of the great societal ill of abortion?

Let me give you some ideas, none of which (either in the specific suggestions, or in the broader categories) are original to me. And let me repeat what someone has said, namely that no one of us can or must do all of these things, but every one of us can and should do some, or at least one, of them.

Here are the ideas:

Get involved poiltically. Vote for candidates who will seek to protect the unborn. When opportunity arises, vote for legal measures that will protect them. Participate in grassroots efforts that attempt to protect them (like the Personhood initiatives in recent years in some states). Write your elected officials on behalf of “those who are being taken away to death”. Become an elected official who will fight for them.

Adopt. It has been wisely pointed out that, when a women is pregnant with a child whom she does not have the wherewithal to raise, the availability of loving couple who would be happy to take and care for that child can be a great deterrent to abortion. And thus it is further pointed out that we need such couples! Maybe someone reading these lines will be among them!

Start something. I don’t think I’d have thought of this category, and of the specific ideas within it, except that I’ve recently gotten news of two different men, in two different places, desiring to start crisis pregnancy centers. Neither is a wealthy benefactor. But both are men who are concerned to do something for the unborn. And if they can do so, perhaps someone reading this article could start a center, too. Or maybe, like a couple of church members recently got our church to do, you start an adoption and foster care fund. Or, like the men I’ve met through the years who started Personhood initiatives, perhaps you begin a grassroots campaign to change the law.

Give. Give to the kind of work that I’ve recently learned of two men hoping to initiate: the starting of a crisis pregnancy center. Give to such a center that is already up and running (fill those Life Forward baby bottles, Cincinnati area folks; and give to Life Forward in other ways, too - see their "Give" page, and the "Get Involved" tab on their website). The church members mentioned above persuaded our leadership of the importance of giving toward the costs and needs associated with adoption. Give to that, too!

Influence individuals. Be a sidewalk counselor in front of an abortion clinic. Influence a friend, or a grandchild, or a co-worker to choose life. Volunteer with a crisis pregnancy center.

Pray. If silence is insufficient in the face of the great evil that is abortion, surely that means we mustn’t be silent on this matter in our prayer lives, either. So pray! Pray for the unborn in general. Intercede on behalf of any specific imperiled unborn children about whom you may know (and for their parents). Pray for the sorts of actions mentioned in this article.

So there you have some ideas for “deliver[ing] those who are being taken away to death”. And the faith of the man quoted at the beginning (‘I trust that God will help us’) urges me to ‘trust’ – and to urge you to ‘trust’ – that God will help us’, too, if and when we join this brother in the fight.

January 24, 2019

"The lips of knowledge"

“There is gold, and an abundance of jewels;
But the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.”
Proverbs 20:15

“Gold, and an abundance of jewels” are mighty fine, Solomon acknowledges. These treasures – the kinds of items one might find hidden in a chest, or protected in a safe, or made into exquisite jewelry – are indeed “precious”. “But”, he says, “the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing” (emphasis added).

Wow! Let that sink in! In comparison with fine jewelry, or the contents of a treasure chest, “lips” that convey “knowledge are a more precious thing”!

And surely it is primarily, if not entirely, “the knowledge of God” (to which he makes reference in Proverbs 2:5) that Solomon has in view in our text. Surely he has in mind “the knowledge of the Holy One” (as he calls it in Proverbs 9:10). “Gold” is “precious”, he grants. “Jewels” as well, he admits. “But the lips of knowledge” – “lips” that communicate “the knowledge of God” – “are a more precious thing.”

Now, does Solomon mean that “the lips of knowledge are a … precious thing” to be possessed (and, of course, opened) by us? Or is he saying that “the lips of knowledge”, possessed by others and opened to us, “are a … precious thing”? Or is it both?

In any case, surely both are true!

It is certainly true that, appraised in comparison with “gold, and an abundance of jewels”, “the lips of knowledge” that are opened to us by others “are a more precious thing.” It is a great blessing, in other words, to have people – whether parents, disciplers, Sunday School teachers, elders, pastors, or whomever – who teach us “the knowledge of God”! “The lips of knowledge” which they open to us “are a … precious thing”! Let us thank God for them, and make good use of what they have to offer!

It is also certain that, in comparison with “gold, and an abundance of jewels”, “the lips of knowledge” that we may possess (and, of course, open) ourselves “are a more precious thing” as well! We are exceedingly blessed if we possess “the knowledge of the Holy One”, and have the faculty for communicating that “knowledge” to others. We are exceedingly blessed, in other words, if we possess “the knowledge of God” and can tell others about Him! And, if you are a Christian, dear reader, surely it is true that, in some measure, you do and you can; that, in some measure, you have “the lips of knowledge”. They “are a … precious thing”, says Solomon! So make sure you open them!

“There is gold, and an abundance of jewels;
But the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.”

November 17, 2018

The Holidays

The anchor us just about ready to lift. The sails are soon to unfurl. And many of us have already begun moving about the deck, preparing to embark on that annual voyage we call ‘the holidays.’ But before the ship departs the harbor, how about some wisdom from God’s word to tuck into our hip pockets, and take with us on the journey? Here are a few portions of scripture, and some thoughts upon them, that I think could be helpful over the next few weeks:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). The holidays sometimes come with some peculiar challenges. One of them, for some of us, is the reality that our shoulders, during the holidays, are often in much closer proximity to family with whom the rubbing of shoulders (sad to say) comes with a good deal more friction than is comfortable. Some of it is perhaps our own faults, to be frank. And sometimes the provocation is largely coming at us. Often it’s both. But in any case, you must “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” And that means you must not be one of the cantankerous ones at the family gatherings. And it means that you must not respond to the cantankerous ones by bickering, or withdrawing, or silently fuming, or talking about them behind their backs. Be a peacemaker this holiday season.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). These next few weeks are going to bring some of us into proximity, not only with people who rub us the wrong way (or vice versa!), but also with people who need Jesus. Some of these lost people will be one and the same with the people with whom we have difficult relationships (all the more reason to “be at peace” with them!). Others will be those who are quite easy to get along with … but still lost. But, in any case, they all need the Savior! And, if you know the Savior, you may have opportunity to speak to them a “good … word” (2 Thess. 2:16-17) about Him. And you will likely have opportunity to do for them a “good work” that represents Him well. And, as you think about those opportunities, know that I have prayed 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 for those who read this article. Go out, now, strenghtened by the Lord, and do “every good work and word”!

“The LORD is near to the broken-hearted” (Psalm 34:18). For some of us, the holidays not only come with the challenge to “be at peace with”, and be a witness to, folks who are present … but with heartache over those who are not. For some of us, the holidays draw extra attention to the fact that someone is missing from the table. Usually it’s someone who used to be with us, but no longer is, for one reason or another. And sometimes, since we tend to think of the holidays as times to be with family, there may be a quiet grief over family members that God never granted; over a spouse or children who never materialized. But if you are the Lord’s, and if you grieve this season over someone who is not at the table with you, know that God is with you; that He “is near to the broken-hearted”. Rest in His nearness, dear friend … during the holidays, and always.

Every blessing to you all this coming holiday season,