Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Power of the Word

“...nothing so endures as a truly spoken word.” (Thomas Carlyle)

As Christians, I think we are obligated to believe that words are powerful. The Bible certainly teaches that they are.

God’s word is powerful. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3)

His word is powerful not only in its incarnate form and its written form, but when we speak it as well. That is why Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2)

Even our own words are powerful--for good or for ill. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5)

So let us be careful how we speak. Let us, as often as possible, present God’s word to others. And even when we speak our own words, let us be careful that they are spoken to provide a blessing to those who hear.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Meditate, Imitate

It was Charles Sheldon who first popularized the question, “what would Jesus do” (WWJD)? But, as has often been pointed out, we cannot profitably ask what Jesus would do in our situation until we first know what he did and taught in his own life. Those who ask, ‘what would Jesus do?’ without first gaining a solid understanding of his life and teachings, are in no position to answer their own question. WDJD (what did Jesus do?) must come before WWJD (what would Jesus do?).

Having said that, we must hasten to add, the first question is of little value without the second. While we cannot know what Jesus would do without first knowing what he did do, to know what he did without imitating it in our own lives is of little value.

We need a combination of the meditative and the imitative. We must study, but we also must practice. It is not on those who know his will that Jesus pronounces a blessing, but on those who act on what they know (John 13:17).

We tend to separate the doctrinal from the practical and the meditative from the active.

There is nothing more practical than his doctrine; and there is no worthwhile activity that would not be done better if we would pause a moment to meditate on the life of Christ before beginning. Rushing past the principles to get to the practice never works. We must understand the principles or the practice will be flawed. To understand the principles of Christ, we must meditate on his life and be well versed in his teaching.

But having studied the principles, we must then put them into practice. We meditate in order to imitate. Never attempt imitation without meditation. Never meditate without also imitating.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Awe-Inspiring Part

John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. (Matthew 3:14-15)

“And with that,” as J. S. Stewart said, “they went down into the water together and there happened the event which the very angels might desire to look into -- a man baptizing his Lord.”

Indeed, there were many things about the earthly life of Jesus that may have inspired the awe of the angels (1 Peter 1:12). I do not know about you, but for me the most awe-inspiring events of Jesus’ life are not the miracles but the little things -- like his submitting to baptism at the hands of his cousin, John. That the one who created the universe and upholds it by his power (Heb 1:1-3) should change water into wine, multiply loaves, or even raise the dead, is not so surprising. That he should walk on water is not unexpected. The shocking part is in the simple stuff.

He asked John to baptize him. He is going to prepare a mansion for us, but he slept on the ground (Matt 8:20). For our sake, he who knew no sin became sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

That is the really awe-inspiring part.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Praise of a Stone

'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?' (Luke 13:7)

It may have been Richard Baxter who said, “To do no harm is the praise of a stone, not of a man.” It was Jesus who indicated, in his parable of Luke 13, that fruitfulness is expected of all God’s children. In his parable, to do no harm is the praise of a stone, not of a tree.

It seems to me that there are three kinds of people in the church today.

There are those who are taking their ease in Zion (Amos 6:1). They contribute nothing to the work and see no reason why they should. Their favorite song is titled “Jesus Paid It All;” but they are a little uncomfortable with the line of the song that reads, “All to Him I owe.” They live as if their life still belongs to themselves, even though they claim to have been bought with a price. They are unfruitful, unconcerned, and, in reality, unsaved.

There are those who are disturbed, even depressed, because they see no results from their efforts. They want to glorify the Lord with their lives, but they often feel that they have failed.

Then there are those (or at least I hope there are) who do their best to honor the Lord in everything they do. They are active in the work of the church and in trying to build a home that honors God. They are active, yet not worried. They are satisfied to do what they can and leave the results in God’s hands.

To become this third kind of Christian, we first need to start with a little self-examination. We need to know where we are now, if we are going to get to where we ought to be.

Where are you now? What are you doing to get where you ought to be?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Whether I Die or Live

I found this credited to Richard Baxter, although I could not find the exact location in his works. Baxter was dead before there was a copyright law, so this must be in the public domain. It certainly is worthy of a careful, prayerful reading.

Lord, it belongs not to my care, Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share, And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long I will be glad, That I may long obey;
If short--yet why should I be sad To soar to endless day?
Christ leads me through no darker rooms Than He went through before;
He that unto God's kingdom comes, Must enter by this door.
Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet, What will Thy glory be!
Then shall I end my sad complaints, And weary, sinful days;
And join with the triumphant saints, To sing Jehovah's praise.
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Avoiding Sin

It is by the grace of God, made available through Jesus, that we are saved. In appreciation of his grace, the Christian desires to live free of sin. The true and faithful Christian desires to be saved from sin, not just from the consequences of sin. Here are three simple strategies to help us avoid sin (there are others, but we have room for just three).

Be Careful of Companions
"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals'" (1 Cor. 15:33). If we sleep with the dogs, we will wake up with fleas. We run into enough evil in this world without seeking it. When we seek evil influences, we are sure to fall. Rather than seeking evil influences, we should have the attitude expressed in Psalm 101:6-7. "I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes."

Get Plenty of Rest
Sometimes long hours come on us unavoidably; but often people willingly keep late hours for no sound reason. When we are tired our judgment is impaired. We may sin because we were not thinking clearly, but if our weariness was self-inflicted, we are fully accountable for our actions. When we choose to impair our judgment by keeping late hours, or by other foolish activities, we will answer for the consequences.

Avoid the Little Sins
One sin often leads to another. Do not give in on the little things, it will only weaken your resolve and make you more susceptible to greater sin. One minor victory over temptation strengthens us to win a greater victory. As the song says, "Each victory will help you, some other to win."