Monday, September 28, 2015

Music in a Hammer


[Photo of a blacksmith at work]

“Because you are my help I sing
in the shadow of your wings.”
—Psalm 63:7

Maybe you remember the childhood rhyme:

There’s music in a hammer;
There’s music in a nail.
There’s music in a kitty-cat
When you step upon her tail!

How often do we feel struck by a hammer in our lives? What kind of music do we make at such times? Over and over in Scripture we are reminded that, like our Savior suffered, we will suffer for His sake and for His purposes in our lives.

In Acts 14:22 we read what the early Apostles told their followers:

We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

To be clear, that does not mean that our salvation comes to us because of our own patient endurance. No, our salvation comes to us as a precious gift from God, as we acknowledge our belief in God’s atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, on the cross.

When we enter Heaven at last, all serious Christ-followers will be survivors of many trials, tests, and struggles. It’s all part of the sanctification process God guides us through on our way toward spiritual maturity. The product of our surrender to the “hammer” of God’s work comes alive in the song we sing while we suffer.

The story of Paul and Silas, recorded in Acts 16, tells of their beating, flogging, and imprisonment. We read these words in Acts 16:25:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.

They rejoiced in God’s will, not knowing whether they would live or die.

From the pen of a Puritan writer we read:

The greatest temptation out of hell is to live without trials. A pool of standing water will turn stagnant…Grace withers without adversity. You can’t sneak quietly into heaven without a cross. Crosses form us into his image. They cut away the pieces of our corruption. Lord cut, carve, wound; Lord do anything to perfect your image in us and make us fit for glory.” 1

But, what of the hammer? Isaiah 44:12 tells us:

The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm.

Our God plays the blacksmith to forge us into His shape. Jeremiah 23:9 tells us:

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Sometimes God’s hammer comes to us through the striking truth of His Word.

Has God ever convicted you of sin so sharply and painfully that you could not rest in your spirit until you confessed and made that right? God still uses the hammer on His people with the hopeful result that, when we arrive to meet Him, we can say with the Puritan:

O what I owe to the file, hammer, and furnace! 2

And not only does He desire us to suffer for His sake, but to sing under the weight of the trials that He might be glorified in us!


1 From “The Loveliness of Christ” by Samuel Rutherford, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 261.
2 Ibid.



Monday, September 21, 2015

A Heavenly Facial


[Photo of a woman examining her face in a mirror]

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two
tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that
his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.”
—Exodus 34:29

One of the largest successful businesses bases itself on a woman’s fascination with her face, and the her desire to make it smooth, ageless, and glowing with health. You can spend a great deal of money on creams, gels, and makeup to cover any imperfections in your skin, along with spot removers, oils, and wrinkle creams. If you doubt this fact, just take a look at the website ads that pop up along the side of your screen at almost every page on Facebook.

Scripture tells of a mysterious phenomenon that happened when Moses met with God on the Mount for 40 days. This glowing of Moses’ face, mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, was nothing, Paul said, compared to what a Christian can experience:

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory…And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This passage reminds us of the passages in the Gospels about Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mt. Hermon, as recorded in Matthew 17:1-2:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

What characterizes each of these historic instances? They all happened to people who had spent time in solitude with God. The visible glory of the Divine Presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, supernaturally illuminated the faces of God’s servants. We read of many times during Jesus’ earthly ministry when He found a quiet place to spend time with God. Matthew 14:23 records one such instance:

After he had dismissed them [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

This pattern that Jesus set for prayer He expects of us, too. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus taught:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

God wants to “transfigure” you in His Presence that you may know Him and take His Presence with you into the world for others to see.

I don’t know about you, but that kind of facial treatment sounds so much more beneficial and lasting than the one the television advertising offers. We may never see the Glory of Christ when we look at ourselves in the mirror, but others will see it in our lives, as we live a life of perpetual solitude in the presence of our Holy God.



Monday, September 14, 2015

Did You See That?


[Photo of an angry woman driver]

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
—Proverbs 15:3

How often, while driving in traffic, have you seen a blatant disregard for the law and for safety? Someone passes another car on the right. A car sails by you doing 80 in a 55 mph zone. A driver makes a turn where signs clearly indicate “NO TURNS.” My reaction, is probably like yours: “Where are the police when you need them?”

The “All-Seeing Eye of God”—or, His Omnipresence—sometimes gets forgotten. We fail to remember that even our thoughts do not go unnoticed by God. In other words, God’s ability to see and perceive everything that happens to us or within us can either bring us great fear or great comfort.

From Psalm 139:4, we learn that before a word is even on our tongues, God knows it completely. That should give us pause every time we speak. In Psalm 139:11-12, we read that we can’t hide from Him. He sees in the darkness as well as in the light. It is crazy to think He can’t see us!

Yet, we can gain comfort from the fact that God sees what others do to us or say about us. Jesus taught His disciples when he first sent them out, as recorded in Matthew 10:26:

…that there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

And, He was talking about people who would abuse and betray the disciples in their ministry.

God wants us to trust Him that He does see. He does hear. He does know our pain when others malign us. Psalm 33:13 tells us that:

…from heaven, the Lord looks down and sees all mankind.

In Psalm 33:18, The Psalmist writes:

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

We sometimes may lose our patience waiting on God. But, we need to realize that He will resolve all the issues that trouble us.

Abraham responded when God told him that He was about to destroy Sodom because of their great sin. Abraham believed that Lot and his family would be spared because they were “the righteous” members of that terrible society. Abraham’s rhetorical question in Genesis 18:25 reveals his trust in God’s ability to get it right:

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

To take a sober look at God’s Omnipresence means that while we need to keep careful watch of our own behaviors, we also must learn to trust God, in His own time, to take care of those things we cannot make right when we say to Him, “Did you see that?”



Monday, September 7, 2015

God’s Flying Buttresses


[Photo of flying_buttresses]

“Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
—Galatians 6:2

In a time of collapse, we would do well to have someone on whom to lean. We see this principle at work in the flying buttresses of Gothic Cathedrals.

According to Wikipedia:

“…the purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards…” which occurs with the load of heavy stone and glass in the walls of the largest buildings. “Another application of the flying buttress is to prop up a leaning wall in danger of collapse.”

The Apostle Paul was such a support to the early churches which he and other apostles founded in the first century. He not only traveled to stay with these young congregations to encourage and help them, but he wrote long letters of instruction to them so that they would not fail.

In carrying the load of these new churches, the Apostle Paul experienced endangering situations such as ship wrecks, starvation, physical problems, beatings, imprisonments, riots, and sleepless nights. In order for his ministry to continue he knew that he needed the buttressing of fellow servants of Christ to help his ministry. He relied on Titus and Timothy, John Mark, and Luke, as well as such lesser-known men as Tychicus, Epaphroditus, and women such as Nympha and Priscilla.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the Church of Christ as the Body of Christ, in which each member belongs to each other member in order to complete the whole. He admonished the Church in 1 Thessalonians 5:11:

Therefore encourage one another, and build each other up.

This theme occurs often in Paul’s writings. He knew how hard life can become and what spiritual warfare these young Christians would face.

In our present age, you may have days when you don’t feel you can go a step further. Weariness, sickness, emotional pain, along with a too-long waiting for God can beat upon you like heavy rain beats on a cathedral in a violent storm. In prayer, ask God to supply the support you need to keep from collapsing. He has already prepared a group of Christians to buttress you up during your difficult days. When the time of hardship ends, may you have the same grateful spirit as Paul did when he wrote to Philemon in verse 7:

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.