Meditating on the Commands of Christ (103): Developing a Servant’s Heart

“I just want to be a boss!” This came in response to the question,”What would you like to be when you grow up?” We thought the question would make a great ice breaker for our high-school aged youth group back in the days when Alan and I were co-leading with our pastor and his wife. There were a lot of enthusiastic and thoughtful responses—most of which I don’t remember 20 years later. But, I’ll never forget that particular answer!

Probably her older sister won’t ever forget it either! Most of us were caught off guard and looked at Melanie* curiously, trying to figure out if she was joking. She was joking, right?! Maybe not; she looked completely serious. An awkward hush fell over the room. Some smirked; some smiled; some looked a little dismayed. In Brethren circles twenty years ago, being “a boss” wasn’t considered PC as the express intention of anybody, but especially not a petite highschool freshman!

“Melanie!” her older sister protested, trying to save the situation, “You don’t really mean that, do you?”

Melanie glared fiercely at her sister. She was fifth-born in a large family and a budding teenager, so I suppose she had some legitimate desire to be out from under the watchful eyes of her parents and older siblings! ” Yes! That’s exactly what I want to be! I want to be in charge!”

I must say that twenty years later, this beautiful young lady is—in many ways—in charge . . . of her lovely children. She’s married and I think happy. She never became the “boss” of a large company or business, but she is definitely one of those proverbially virtuous women who directs her home with tender (but also firm) care. She’s a good boss, but I suspect that didn’t come without a lot of pain in the process!

In the Bible, Jesus’s followers more than once debated who was the greatest and who should have preeminence when Jesus reigned as king. In that context, Jesus taught them: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that serves” Luke 22:26). In reality, Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman government (as some of his disciples thought). As it turned out, Jesus’s kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. Jesus will someday reign over all the earth, but in the cross hairs of BC and AD, Christ’s mission was to die as a sacrificial servant to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.

Who became the leader after Jesus died? Really, all of the remaining apostles, but it cost them all their lives.

They led by example, constrained by the love of Christ, not for any glory for themselves, but so they could testify to the truth of the gospel for the love of man and the glory of God.

Jesus died so that the world could be saved. Stephen, one of the first servants of the church, died as a martyr, but through his death Paul was converted. Paul was martyred, but through his death multitudes came to faith. And on and on!

Leadership in the church of Jesus Christ has never been intended to be for the glory of individual people. True leaders suffer greatly. Jesus calls us to servant leadership—being willing to suffer so that others might hear, believe, and be saved.

Are we willing?

Here are a few quotes on servant leadership worth pondering:

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Texts for this meditation: Matthew 23:10-12, “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 20:25-28, But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 9:33-37 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,  ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.‘” Mark 10:4 2-45  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Luke 22:26, But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Make Me a Servant

(*Melanie is a pseudonym, since this charming young woman is alive and well still today.)

Encouraging Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful time of feeling and expressing thankfulness for all the blessings in your life today, whether or not you’re able to get together with the family and friends you’d normally be seeing. As COVID spiked in Michigan, our plans dwindled from four of our children and their families coming home, to three, to two, and finally to just one, but we are extremely grateful to be able to meet with our youngest and his new wife. We could have been all by ourselves!

Or could we? Actually, even if no one could visit our home, we would never be alone. After all, what it Thanksgiving Day really about? It’s about expressing thankfulness for all our blessings! And, who is the One who has given us every wonderful gift we possess? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Our circumstances may change. Our friends may not be able to join us due to the shadow of COVID. But, God our Father never changes, and He is always with us!

Furthermore, at the root of thanksgiving is grateful fellowship, and as we learn in 1 John 1:3, “truly our fellowship with with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Even if you are all alone this Thanksgiving, I hope your day is filled with praise to God for his abundant blessings in your life! Chief among my blessings is the gift of eternal life, which God has given us through faith in his Son, Jesus: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). If you have never surrendered your heart and life to Jesus, this Thanksgiving Day would be the perfect time to do so! (Not sure how? Click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this page for more details.)

Still, I know we’ll all struggle a little with sadness over missing the fellowship of family and other loved ones today, so I thought I’d share some inspiring bits of wisdom to help cheer us all up and set our hearts on being thankful today. God bless you!!

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (98): Come Down

Do you know the story of Zacchaeus? In a nutshell, he was a small man with a big bank account based on his willingness to work for the government extracting taxes (sometimes unfairly) from people in Jericho. Basically, he was generally considered a despicable traitor, and I’ll bet he didn’t get invited to many dinner parties.

The Conversion of Zacchaeus by Bernardo Strozzi, 1581-1644

Thankfully, Zacchaeus wasn’t satisfied with his life. He became a seeker. Specifically, he developed some heart hunger and curiosity about the famous itinerate preacher and miracle worker, Jesus, who was passing through town. But, Jesus was surrounded by crowds of people who were also curious, and I suppose Zacchaeus knew intuitively that no one would make a way for him to get through the masses so he could see Jesus. And, if he tried to push his way through, everyone would most likely push him out of the way . . . or worse.

How could he get to Jesus? He was too short to see over all the other men. Zacchaeus looked down the road and saw where Jesus was headed. There was a large sycamore tree overhanging the road, and this gave Zacchaeus a brilliant idea! If he climbed up into the tree, he wouldn’t be harassed by anybody and could probably get a great view of this famous person without anybody even knowing he was there.

Jesus wasn’t oblivious to his presence, however! Jesus knew his heart’s desire, so he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Jesus invited himself to dinner! Imagine that. Everybody else hated Zaccheaus, but Jesus loved him and chose to have fellowship with him! The rest of the story records that this simple act of acceptance by Jesus brought out a response of joy and repentance in the “filthy rich,” much-despised Scrooge, and Zaccheaus promised to give half of his wealth to the poor and restore four-fold whatever he had unfairly taken from the people. The end of the story is a beautiful benediction by Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house . . . for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

True repentance is truly transcendent, like watching a rose unfold from a tight, green bud or a butterfly emerge from a dead cocoon. When I read this account in the Scripture, I sometimes fear that I am like the self-righteous citizens of Jericho who despised the corrupt government official and would not make a way for him. Am I making it hard for someone to find their way to Jesus? How do you identify? Perhaps you’re more like Zacchaeus: unloved by others, or wealthy from being unscrupulous and hard-hearted in your business practices.

No matter who you are, Jesus sees you. He knows you’re there and has stopped to reach out to you today. His invitation to you is: “Hurry and come down!” Invite him into your home and heart. He wants to meet with you and fellowship with you! Allow his life to inspire you to repentance and change. Experience the joy of putting greed behind you and putting goodness before you!

No matter who we are, let’s make sure we’re not blocking anyone from coming to Jesus. Let’s become “way makers” to lead others to the true Way Maker and miracle worker who can meet our needs and change our hearts.

Way Maker, Miracle Worker by Leeland Mooring

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost‘” (Luke 19:1-10).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (96): Semper Paratus

Are you ready for the Lord’s return? Do you even know what that means? While Jesus was teaching—long before he was captured by jealous religious leaders and crucified—he told his disciples to be constantly prepared for his return to earth: Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home(Luke 12:35). I’m sure that must have been impossible to understand. No human had ever died and returned to earth. His disciples believed that Jesus Christ was the Messiah who had been prophesied as coming to save, redeem, and restore the Jewish people. Unable to imagine a spiritual kingdom, they presumed a physical deliverance from the oppressive leadership of Rome and a restoration of their right to self-rule.

Therefore, the disciples didn’t think Jesus was going to go anywhere. They expected him to get up his gumption to overthrow the Romans, and his miraculous powers seemed like just what he’d need to actually pull off such a coup. He would lead, and they would follow. He would be their military hero, and they would be part of the new kingdom of Israel.

The facts were so far from their understanding that they couldn’t conceive of what Jesus was talking about, no matter how carefully he explained it. He forewarned them that he would leave but that he would return. In that context, he told them to Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home(Luke 12:35).

My German daughter-in-law’s father, who has been serving Christ faithfully
even as he nears his 80’s!

His command reminds me of the Minutemen during America’s revolution, who were ever ready to engage in battle to defend our country at a moment’s notice. This reminds me of the Boy Scout motto I learned from my brothers many years ago: “Be Prepared!” This reminds me of our United States’ Coast Guard’s official marching song:

Semper Paratus
(“Always Ready”)

“We’re always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be . . .
Aye! We’ve been ‘Always Ready’
To do, to fight, or die!
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed
Our mission and our pride.
We’ll carry on ’til Kingdom Come
Ideals for which we’ve died.”

“Keep your lamps burning!” What has happened to the sense of urgency and dedication to always being prepared for our Master to return? Have we ceased believing because it’s been two millennia since this mandate was given? “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Can we not stand ready for a few days? Are we, the Western Church, slumbering like the lethargic virgin who tired of waiting for her bridegroom (Matthew 25)?

Or, perhaps you’re part of the vast army of weary pilgrims around the world being mercilessly persecuted for your faith. Take heart: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Your pain and suffering are working to “sink the foe” and “save the maimed,” to gather in a great host of brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God. So, “carry on ’til Kingdom Come!” It won’t be long, and when we reach the other side, we’ll consider our afflictions on this earth “light” and “momentary” when compared to the incomparable weight of glory revealed to us in God! “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Text for this meditation: Luke 12:35- 38; 40 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

(Official audio version from YouTube for Matthew West’s song, “Take Heart”)

God’s Not Dead

Speaking of confusing light and darkness:

If you’re struggling over whether or not to believe in God, I’d like to recommend the series of movies God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.

God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and got such a poor rating (4.7) that we didn’t watch it, but we watched it this past week and realized that the movie is actually excellent, and I’m convinced the low rating is simply a reflection of Hollywood and movie critics in general disliking Christian themes and material.

The first movie contains some helpful information concerning the origins of Earth and the universe and a clear gospel message.

God’s Not Dead 2 takes us to a courtroom, where a high school teacher is charged for answering a question about Jesus in her AP history class.

In this movie, Lee Strobel and Jim Wallace, both capable defenders of the Christian faith, show up on the witness stand. I’m in the midst of listening my way through Warren’s fascinating series on Christianity, written from his perspective as a cold-case detective on the Los Angeles police force, so I’m doubly a fan.

In both movies, the Newsboys make appearances, sharing faith and singing. If you’re not familiar with the Newsboys, they’re a Christian rock band from Australia that’s released 17 albums, 6 certified gold, and their catchy, clever lyrics have been captivating kids since 1985.

According to Wiki, Michael Tait (who now leads the Newsboys) “expressed excitement about the film to The Global Dispatch during an interview, saying that ‘The movie is powerful because of the whole stance of it…just trying to prove God’s existence…sharing the gospel, living the lifestyle, changing the mindset of people around them in this college, in this university’.”

“Duncan Phillips added in a similar interview that ‘Disney’s Shane Harper plays a college student whose faith is challenged by his professor, played by Kevin Sorbo from Hercules.

Dean Cain from Superman is in it, too. So we got to hang out with a bunch of superheroes. The movie raises a lot of questions and a lot of eyebrows from a culture that questions if there is a God’.”

So, the acting is excellent, the message is great . . . what’s not to love? I guess only the fact that the movies stand up for Christ and the Gospel in the midst of a culture that has become often openly hostile to people expressing their faith in Christ.

In God’s Not Dead 2, the lawyer (played by Jesse Metcalfe) points out that the term “separation of Church and State” is not in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. In fact, it first appears in a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to a baptist congregation, explaining that they should have no fear of signing America’s formative legal documents because they guarantee religious freedom—which is the right for people to practice their religious faith without persecution. (Many of the first pilgrims came from Europe because they were persecuted for their faith in their European settings.) Somehow, America has inverted freedom OF religion to mean freedom FROM religion by excluding any and all religious expressions (at least Christian religious practices) from public spaces.

Talk about failing to discern right from wrong and good from evil!

God’s Not Dead Composed and Sung by The Newboys

Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:35)

Fact v Fiction in Ford v Ferrari

Probably not everybody is as geeked by hot cars as my husband is . . .

but even if you’re not into speed and racing, I think you might find the 2019 Ford v Ferrari fascinating. At least—I sure did! (“Terrifying” also comes to mind.)

It’s based on the true story of Ford Motor Company’s frenetic battle to develop a car that could beat Ferrari in the world’s premiere 24-hour Le Mans race.

Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles

Like the Le Mans itself, the movie is a grueling 2.5 hour heart-clutching experience, but the acting was superb and the story gripping.

This 2019 masterpiece (IMBd 8.2, PG-13) left me amazed and elated as well as angry and sad.

Like all of the world’s best true stories, there was triumph—

but also tragedy.

Ford v Ferrari had such an emotional impact on me that I had to do some research to figure out what really happened versus what was scripted to make for more tension in the movie.

Although Henry Ford II and Leo Beebe were ruthless, it appears they weren’t quite as despicable as portrayed in the movie.

It sounds like the close relationship between the Texan designing maven, Carroll Shelby, and his British-born driver, Ken Miles was real. (Ken was a mechanic by trade but had nerves of steel . . . he really had driven a tank onto the beach of Normandy in 1944.)

Catriona Balfe as Mollie Miles

Also authentic was the beautiful love relationship between Ken Miles and his sweet wife, Mollie.

Ditto for the love and devotion that existed between Ken and his son, Peter. (In fact, it sounds like Ken truly was an awesome person and highly respected by all who knew him . . . even if they did tease him about being “Teabag Teddy” for loving his English tea!)

One of the most amazing things about the movie (for me personally) was learning that all the super intense racing sequences were 100% real without any computer generated effects! Since all the original cars are now worth millions of dollars, they didn’t try to use originals but went to great pains to build authentic-looking replicas.

The only computer-generated visual effects were the crowds! Can you imagine how many extras they’d need to portray the thousands of spectators attending the 1966 Le Mans race?!

The movie failed to give full credit where credit was due for the development of the Ford GT40. Although Shelby and Miles were perhaps the most invested, there was an entire team of Ford engineers scrambling to analyze and perfect their company’s entry for the 1966 Le Mans race.

The “Real” Ken Miles on the left superimposed with Christian Bale from https://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/ford-v-ferrari/

However, for better and worse, the story’s major triumphs and tragedies were real and powerfully portrayed. It’s a story that made me really admire the life and legacy of Ken Miles.

I want to be as determined and tough as he was.

I want to be as brave and steady as he was under pressure.

I want to endure like he did.

I want to be willing to run the race of life with everything I’ve got!

And, I want to remember at all times that doing my best and being my best are even more important than winning the world’s acclaim.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

(P.S.— I wrote this post just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and then it seemed superficial to be thinking about cars and crowds for a while, but the sentiment is so true that I’m now ready to share it with you. Amidst all the suffering and destruction, I believe we need encouragement to persevere!

So Will I

On this last day of April, I would like to share one of my all-time favorite poems/songs. The lyrics and music are beautiful beyond description, like the God about whom it is written, and the visuals on this rendition leave me breathless and overflowing.

So Will I (100 Billion X)
Words and Music by Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin
© 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7084123

VERSE 1
God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

CHORUS 1
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

VERSE 2
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

CHORUS 2
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

BRIDGE
If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

VERSE 3
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

CHORUS 3
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

TAG
Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them
by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (Matthew 18:11-12).

Dear Judy

Dear Judy,

Alan and I watched the new movie about your life, and the acting was brilliant, but it broke our hearts.

How dare anyone force a child to work 18-hour days? Where were your parents, and why didn’t they protect you from all the oppression and intimidation you suffered while growing up as a child star?

Getting you hooked on prescription medications as a child was criminal. I think today such injustice would be grounds for jail sentences . . . if people found out and cared enough.

Meanwhile, your greedy “handlers,” who were getting rich from your beauty and talent, continued to oppress you, robbing you of the pleasures of a normal childhood.

And, it didn’t stop when you grew up.

Hooked and confused, you continued to sing and dance to the tunes of the world that made you rich and famous . . . and continued your misery.

You couldn’t resist the roar of applause and approval. (Who could?) Always looking for love— but finding no one who truly cared for you as much as they cared for your glamour.

And, who could resist the temptation to want you for your face and fortune?

No, you couldn’t resist the lure of fame and fortune, even though it destroyed you and your attempts at marriage.

Five husbands and three children later, you discovered to your horror that you had given up—not only your childhood, but your adulthood, your marriages, your hope of family and love—and even your personhood.

What a tragic end for someone who started out with so much greatness and potential!

My heart grieves for you,
Kathi

. . . You know, the world isn’t kind. People are selfish by nature. I’m sure all of us could relate story after story of heartache and ruin happening today in the lives of those around us. Not just “somewhere over the rainbow” or “out there,” but right here, close in our hearts and in the lives of our loved ones and neighbors. God has given each of us the freedom to choose how we will live, but—just like Judy—we often choose very destructive habits and passions over what we know to be right and good. Yes, many are abused as children which causes disabilities and confusion, but the choices we make as adults are our own, and we are responsible for those decisions.

Don’t ever buy the line that God will never give us more than we can take. That’s not in the Bible, and it’s patently untrue. We do get into situations that we can’t handle on our own. But, I believe God allows the overwhelming circumstances so that we will be driven to Him for help, and He promises that He will rescue those who seek him with all their hearts.

Was there never a time in Judy’s life when she heard the gospel? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God promises that those who trust in Him will be provided a way of escape, but it’s up to us to take it!

Do you feel overwhelmed, and like your life is so messed up that there’s no hope of recovery? Do you find yourself not believing it possible to overcome all the pain and suffering you’re been facing everyday? “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6a). I have been really struck by this verse of late. There is so much trouble in the world that it’s tempting to look at the evil and miss all the good! But, then the psalmist goes on with a request: “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” And, when we ask, He answers.

For instance, I know another Judy. This lady’s husband and only son are alcoholics, but she is radiant and happy. Truly, I sometimes wonder how she does it, but I know it’s supernatural grace! I know someone who was badly abused by her step-father as a child but now is a vibrant and deeply compassionate young woman, walking in freedom and light. She has experienced the reality of “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). I knew a woman whose mother died when she was a toddler. She grew up in abject poverty, was raped while serving in the military as a nurse, and married a man who was repeatedly unfaithful. Still, this magnificent woman chose over and over again to trust the Lord, to obey His Word, and to walk in love. She has been a source of inspiration and blessing to all who knew her.

No matter what our background or our present circumstances, we can choose to do what is right and good. We can choose—one choice at a time, one day at a time—to beg God for grace to make the right choice and to “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:1-8)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
(—Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, Public Domain)

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!
    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (66): What Are We Throwing Under the Bus?

When we say we’re throwing something under the bus, that means we’re giving up on it. We aren’t protecting it; we’re letting go of it; we’re standing by doing nothing while it’s being destroyed. I think this is the spirit in which Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.” Dogs receive the leftovers—the scraps that we no longer want or need. Why does Jesus warn us not to give away those things in our life which are holy and let them be destroyed by “dogs” who will devour them? Because those things which are holy are actually the most important things in our life!

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, married for 55 years,
9 children, and 28 grandchildren!

What do we have that’s holy, and what is holiness? According to Merriam Webster, something that is holy is “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” By that high standard, only God is perfectly holy: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy” (Revelation 15:4). First and foremost, God is holy, and we should never throw God under the bus or allow anything in life to cause us to leave the name and glory of God undefended. Don’t stand idly by while people profane God or defame His character. Rather, let’s imitate King David: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:1-3). The proud may think you’re crazy to believe in God, but the humble will be glad! I have long appreciated this statement by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (devout Catholic believer and judge for 30 years): “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed . . . If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. . . Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world” (speaking to a group of evangelical Christians in Jackson, Mississippi).

Second, the Church is holy (see Acts. 6:13 and Ephesians 2:21 and 5:27). The Church is the body of believers who come together for worship, prayer, communion, and to build each other up through fellowship and study. The Church is like the fireplace where heat and light are generated, and we are individually like living coals of fire! If we get too hot and pop off, we’ll most likely tumble away from the heat and grow cold. It’s in the community life of the Body of Christ that we grow, flourish, and minister to others. In 1 Peter 2:9, God says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Don’t throw away your commitment to fellowshiping with a local community of believers! The Church is sacred! Don’t throw it under the bus!

Third, if we are believers, we ourselves are called to holiness. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). In Romans, every believer is encouraged to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). So, God intends for us to be “sanctified”—consecrated to God and set apart in purity for him. When we make moral compromises with our friends or co-workers for the sake of “getting along” with them or fitting in, we are giving that which is holy (ourselves) unto the dogs (those who do not believe and have no regard for holiness).

One of the most unpopular aspects of holiness today is protecting our purity. God reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” And, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We are called to sexual purity—don’t give your body up for immoral relationships—real or virtual! We belong to the Lord

There is a fourth thing that is repeatedly called “holy” in the Bible, and I’ll share about that next week. Can you guess what it is? Meanwhile, as we consider our lives, let’s make sure we’re not giving away our most important possessions—which are spiritual and holy: the Triune God, the Body of Christ, ourselves and our purity!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (65): Casting Beams

Have you ever had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and feeling light and peace, like you can see straight into their soul? I have. I have also had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and sensing impenetrable darkness, like a black, iron curtain has been drawn to keep me from understanding their thoughts. One makes me feel loved; the other gives me the creeps! Do you know what I mean?

In today’s text for meditation, Jesus warns us not to judge others, but to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I want to consider and contrast the “beam” and the “mote.”

“Beam” has many meanings. All biblical translators and commentators seem unanimous in their opinion that Jesus is using hyperbole and referring to a large timber used for construction, but I’m such a concrete thinker that this word picture never really makes sense to me. You can’t have a literal beam of timber in your eye, because no eye could contain something that large. I’ve heard preachers try to explain it by saying it’s probably just a splinter that looks like a beam of wood to the person who has it in his eye. However, a splinter would totally block a person’s vision and be terribly painful. Anyone with a splinter in his eye naturally goes into a state of emergency and can hardly think of anything else until it’s removed.

No, this “beam” has gone unnoticed by the person. It is of huge significance, but it has blinded him and made proper judgment impossible, even though he is oblivious to this truth. So, that’s made me think about other possibilities for what Jesus could have really meant, and it occurs to me that a beam can also be a shaft of light.

A mote—on the other hand—is a speck . . . just a tiny particle . . . a bit of dust floating through the air and drifting across a shaft of light. If you put those two thoughts together, it makes a beautiful picture of what Jesus might have intended for us to understand on the spiritual level regardless of how we interpret his metaphor! Could it be that Jesus is warning us that when we judge and condemn others, we are most often doing it from a state of our own darkness. Our understanding has become skewed. We are not thinking God’s thoughts; we are judging based on our own selfish, self-serving opinions. Our heart has become blind, and what’s coming out of our eyes are beams of darkness that cause ourselves and others to stumble. Jesus points out, “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).

Look at the orchids above. Only the ones that have been illuminated with light are clearly visible. There’s no way we could we know if there’s a tiny mite or a speck of fungus threatening the health of the flowers in the background which are out of focus and in the dark. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us to cast the beams of darkness out of our own eyes so that the Light of life can illuminate us from within. Then, and only then, can we see well enough to know what the real needs of our friends are . . . and not simply what they are doing that irritates us!

Also, I love the vision of a mote as a tiny fleck floating along through a beam of light. Although specks of dust can be seen in strong shafts of light, most of them are insignificant and will drift into obscurity before long. I wonder if God, with his infinite patience, watches us with longsuffering, knowing that the bits of dirt in our lives will soon enough pass into oblivion, cleansed away by gentle puffs of the Holy Spirit.

Are we casting beams of light or darkness to those around us? Do you suppose others sense that we love them—or are they feeling creeped out? Does the light in our eyes illuminate or darken others? How much better to concentrate on becoming filled with Light! Then we will see more clearly to give others true help . . . and I suspect many of the motes that are so disturbing to us now will float away . . . or at least turn into mole hills. 🙂

Want more light in your soul? Look up at Jesus. Fill your heart with his Word, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Shine On Us
(—Phillips, Craig and Dean)

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us
Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your light shine on us

Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us
Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your grace fall on us

Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us
Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let love come over us
Let your light shine on us

Passages for today’s text: Luke 6:39-42, “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-6, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.