Monday, September 30, 2013

Look Up!


[Photo of a woman looking up at the sky]

 “O, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You made them a little lower than the angels and covered them with glory and honor.”
 —Psalm 8:1, 4-5

In his excellent three-volume commentary on the Psalms, Dr. James Montgomery Boice offers some interesting thoughts on Psalm 8. He notes that Thomas Aquinas was one of the first to write that this psalm places man halfway between earth and heaven. Aquinas observed that angels have spirits without bodies and animals have bodies without spirits. Man, because he has both a spirit and a body stands between them.

Why did God say that we are a “little lower than the angels?” He could just as truthfully said that man is a little higher than the animals. However, because man was created by God in His own image, He shows the desire of His heart that we become increasingly like Him rather than increasingly like the beasts.

To quote Dr. Boice:

“But here is the sad thing. Although made in God’s image and ordained to become increasingly like the God to whom they look, men and women have turned their backs on God. And since they will not look upward to God, which is their privilege and duty, they actually look downward to the beasts and so become increasingly like them.”

Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, whose story we read about in the book of Daniel, was driven to the wilderness to live with the wild animals because he refused to give God the glory for creating all that the king claimed to own. In this downtrodden state, he recognized Daniel’s God and finally was given sight to proclaim His glory.

The Westminster Catechism affirms the reality of our true calling when it states that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Our society has lost its way in this regard. Evolution has become the logical “wisdom” of our generation. When we eliminate God from our thinking, we have to formulate an explanation for our being. Thus, we invent evolution. In this theory, we are only slightly an advanced version of the beasts. Once we see ourselves as only “better beasts,” we begin to mirror our behavior on those from whom we originate and become more and more like them.

But, God has made a solution for our willful rebellion. As stated in Philippians 2:8-11, God the Father sent Jesus, made a little lower than the angels himself…

“…who humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We truly do become like what we gaze at. Looking down, we see our beginnings with the earthly beasts. We subject ourselves to the animalistic behaviors we see there. Looking up, we see the God who made us in His image, who came to us in human form through His Son, and who wants to make us increasingly like Himself until we see Him face to face!

We should praise Him every day for considering our low estate and desiring to raise us up to carry His image with the dignity that He gave us when He stamped His very own image upon us.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The Legacy


[Photo of a young girl playing the violin]

 “ We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget
his deeds but would keep his commands.”
 — Psalm 78:4b-7

If we could just see backwards to the way in which God prepared to have us learn of Him and the gospel message, we would be astonished.

Did a great-great-grandmother teach her children well? And, did one of them—the one who became your grandfather—so fall in love with Christ that children many generations later would proclaim His grace? (Yes! That’s exactly what happened in my family!)

Did a long ago professor plant a seed of Truth that would resonate for many decades in the life of someone who later took steps to influence you?

We just won’t know the beautiful strand of embroidery that God has used to bring us to Himself until some glorious day we stand before Him.

On the other hand, do WE give ourselves to God so He can plant the seed of the gospel in those in the next generations? We may never see the full impact our lives have on younger people whom we have only met for a brief period. Likewise, we may not yet clearly see the impact our lives have had on those we have raised in our own homes who will carry the message of God’s grace onward.

Television writer and author David C. McCasland tells about meeting a member of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Luis Antonio Rojas, who told him that:

“…the finest instruments are made of wood that has been allowed to age naturally to remove the moisture. You must age the wood for 80 years, then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound … a craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and he will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime.” 1

Perhaps you have poured yourself into children or young people, but see little to indicate that you have made an impact. Remember this story. God takes time to work His will into His children.

Be faithful! Continue to take every opportunity to live for Christ and share His story with those in the next generation, and the next. We will all be amazed when we meet in Heaven to see those who came before us who had been faithful, and those who will come after us who are there because of our faithful witness.


1 Quoted in Our Daily Bread: Devotional Journal, ©2010, RBC Ministries.



Monday, September 16, 2013

Pass It On


[Photo of children sitting in a circle]

In most any culture in the world, children learn games of passing. They sit in a circle, and either pass a certain hand motion, a “secret,” or an object. Sometimes the game requires the children to pass a rock or a ball to the steady beat of a song. Sometimes passing a word is imperative in a certain amount of time, or to some other rule of the game.

God has given us a rule of the “game” through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

God expects us to pass on the comfort, the lessons learned when we suffered, to those who presently suffer. He does not waste our troubles. God not only has a reason in our lives for the suffering He allows, but also in the lives of others.

Most of us know of someone whose parent died at a young age of an incurable disease, or suffered throughout a lifetime with an untreatable condition. This son or daughter chose a field of study for their life’s work in order to bring a cure for the disease.

Others volunteer in a social service organization that serves people with a terrible habit with which they themselves have struggled.

Why does this happen? Because we become aware of the needs and feelings of others going through similar trials we have suffered.

God changes our vision when we suffer. Just as Jesus suffered, and now gives us His comfort, we can offer comfort to those He is taking through trials for which they are ill equipped. Once they have learned the lesson of the suffering, God will expect them to pass on the comforts they have received.

Ask God today what person or persons need a word or a helping hand which includes the comfort which you received when you learned some hard lessons. Ask Him to give you an awareness of ministry right where you live today. Pass on the encouragement and comfort!

The third verse of an old gospel song1, sums it up:

Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.


1 From Make Me a Blessing. Words by Ira Wilson. ©1952



Monday, September 9, 2013

Appropriate Luggage


[Photo of a young woman getting her luggage at an airport]

 “But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
 —2 Corinthians 10:12 RSV

Christian speaker and artist, Joni Eareckson Tada, in her devotional book, Pearls of Great Price, recounts a thought she had while traveling:

I have been at countless airport carousels, watching as bags innumerable drop from the chute. Some of those pieces are very nice. Smart leather trim. Clean. New. In my daydreams I wonder what would happen if I swapped my old, scuffed-up luggage for one of those fancy pieces? I wouldn’t of course, But if I did, what might I find inside? Elegant clothes that don’t fit. Shoes I don’t like. Makeup that doesn’t match my skin tone. Jewelry that’s clunky and overdone. And what might I lose in this hypothetical deal? I’d lose my speaking notes, my favorite dress jeans, and treasured personal jewelry. I would lose the devotional book I love to read in the morning. In fact, while the bag I took might look better on the outside, it’s a no-brainer that the stuff on the inside wouldn’t be a good fit at all.

It’s easy to look at others and wish we could be like them; to have their talent, or their trim figure, or their jewelry collection, etc. And sometimes, all this comparison leads to sin in the form of covetousness.

God has given each of us our own perfect case in which to live our lives. If He has made us to be a stay-at-home mom, He may not have given us the ability to speak in public. If He has made us to speak in public, He may not have given us children. God planned the whole package when He created us.

Learn to see yourself as God sees you—a perfect blend of everything He needs. Even those things we consider weaknesses, He can use for His glory. Instead of looking longingly on what He has given others, we need to say with David, the psalmist, in Psalm 139:14, 16 NIV:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Look in the mirror today, and thank God for all He has given you, and pledge to Him that you will willingly use all your gifts in service to Him! What a joy!



Monday, September 2, 2013

The Eager Student


[Photo of  children raising their hands]

I love the Psalms. This morning I studied Psalm 25 with the help of a commentary by longtime Presbyterian pastor, Dr. James Montgomery Boice. He calls this psalm a Schoolbook Lesson for Living to Please God. Having started school either as a student or teacher for 48 years (!), I get excited thinking about learning in the classroom.

We see in this psalm a perfect Teacher and a good learner. Psalm 25:4-5 states:

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

First of all, a good teacher, like the Master Teacher, “shows,” “teaches,” and “guides.” Not all students learn the same way, and many subjects need various approaches. In a corresponding Psalm to this one, we read from Psalm 119:33-37:

Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statues
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Any teacher can tell you that learning takes two—the good teacher and the good student. If we turn back to the portion of Scripture in Psalm 25:9-10, we read:

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

Obedient and humble students learn and find joy in doing so. They also bring joy to the heart of their teacher. In another Psalm, David speaks for God in Psalm 32:8-9:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

All teachers know students they have to control, and even then, do not learn well, because they show reluctance and stubbornness. God looks for those with whom He can joyfully share His lessons.

As the new school year begins, let it remind you to come to God as an eager student. He has life-long teaching to do, and He expects us to be part of the process!