Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015
Saturday, December 26, 2015
The residents of our city experienced strong tornadoes yesterday for the second time in a week. We are far more noted for the "straight-line" tempests of hurricanes, so the twisters have caused some nervous moments for all. Those who suffered damage in the storm face clean up and recovery challenges similar to the aftermath of the late summer winds that often blow in our area.
"Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps: fire and hail; snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling His word" (Psalm 148:6-7).
What particular "word" does a "stormy wind" fulfill? In the general sense, we might deduce that this refers to the Bible's message of God's involvement in a fallen world, characterized by a cursed ground and an atmosphere governed (under God's ultimate authority) by "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2). The entrance of sin into the human race through Adam brought necessary thorns into our earthly experience for the purpose of revealing our need for the Lord's redemption and rescue. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray. But now I have kept Thy word" (Psalm 119:67). Stormy winds certainly comprise part of this loving revelation, revealing the truth of helplessness in the face of life's uncertain realities.
In specific terms, we rarely know the whys and wherefores of God's determinations and allowances. Some people experience the brunt of storms, while others escape. It is a risky business to decide that we know the specific reasons for such mystery. I try to avoid pronouncements of judgment or bestowals of mercy based upon evaluations of people's response to God, or lack thereof. Stormy winds and other calamities impact the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). In our area, hurricanes have destroyed the homes and taken the lives of Christians who were doubtless on their knees praying at the time of destruction. Conversely, storms often spare those who might be cursing Heaven for the fearful tempest. Who can understand or offer explanation for such an enigma? Personally, I find that far beyond my ability to comprehend.
We do know that while we often don't perceive what God is doing, we can be sure that He is doing something. "God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11). Moreover, "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). Our Lord weaves His determinations and allowances into a fabric that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, while working "all things together for good" in the lives of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Nothing happens in our lives outside the scope of God's wisdom and power to coordinate "all things" into our best interest, defined in Scripture as believers being conformed to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Tornadoes on Christmas Day, 2012. How did such "stormy wind fulfill His word?" I don't know. I just know that it did, in accordance with the Psalmist's declaration. We can trust God in both blessing and calamity, and in those times when we cannot understand His hand, we can trust His heart. Again, "His way is perfect." Therein, our souls find rest in calm and storm, knowing that both fulfill His word.
"He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves are thereof are still." (Psalm 107:25; 29)
Friday, December 25, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I cannot abide Ebenezer Scrooge being viewed as the symbol for mean, miserly, and cold-hearted curmudgeons who possess no caring or compassion for their fellow man. Nor can I abide an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who ultimately gave his life for the Savior being referred to as "doubting Thomas."
"If any man be in Christ, he is as a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians ).
Whether in Charles Dickens' literature or the Bible's historical reality, our focus should not rest upon that which was, but rather, that which is. In Ebenezer's case, his journeys through the past, present, and future led to his becoming the man who most knew how to keep Christmas. His story powerfully depicts miraculous redemption and change. Thus, when we hear the name "Scrooge," kindness and generosity should come to mind in joyful remembrance of transforming grace and mercy.
In the case of the Apostle Thomas, a far serious matter presents itself. Certainly, he once expressed the fleshly "I'll believe it when I see it" sensibility that characterizes all of us at times. "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John ). Moreover, the risen Lord Jesus chided his disciple for such uncertainty: "Then saith He to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John ). However, the episode ends with Thomas expressing to his Savior one of the great affirmations of truth recorded in Scripture. "My Lord and my God!" he pronounces the Lord Jesus. Moreover, historical tradition holds that Thomas gave his life for Christ at the point of a spear. I would therefore maintain that rather than "doubting Thomas," we should respectfully view our brother of old as "faithful Thomas," and a man who wears the martyr's crown for the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Ebenezer and Thomas also elicit attention concerning a more personal matter. Do we as believers view ourselves in terms of who we were, or who we are? God looks upon us not as in terms of our past history as servants of sin, but rather as who we are in Christ as His sons and daughters of righteousness. "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8). We must share this blessed view of His saving grace, whether we consider a transformed literary figure, a redeemed saint who gave the last full measure of devotion for his Lord, or ourselves in Christ. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11). Ebenezer and Thomas - may we remember them as who they became. And let us affirm ourselves as who we are, and who we are becoming through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
(I Corinthians 6:9-11)