Posted February 27, 2011 at 4:57PM in Christian Life.
I love the Word of God! It is the responsibility of those who have been elected by God to feast regularly on His Word. For me, this means striving to spend at least some amount of time each day intentionally seeking God through reading and praying over Scripture. Most days, I find that, by His never-ending, never-waning grace, God provides some morsel of Truth through that study that gives me food for thought and prayer through the day. Often, that Truth is a convicting one — exposing to me some area of my life that needs to either be purged in order to allow for a greater reliance on God, or to something that needs to be turned over to God, or given over to Him more fully.
While virtually every time I intentionally seek God through His Word is fruitful in some way, there are days when the “manna feast” is so abundant that I am awe-struck: completely dumb-founded by God’s glory, goodness, and the all-sufficiency of His Word as food for His people. Today was one of those days. There are those who are skeptical that the Word of God is all-sufficient, providing guidance and instruction for every aspect of the life of a Christian. However, I am convinced that the more a person, experiencing God’s spiritual regeneration, spends time with Him in prayer, and spends time in the study of Scripture, the more they become rightfully convinced of the contrary: For the Christian, Scripture is all-sufficient.
My time in the Word today has left me so full that I could not help seeking, with His help, to allow some of that fullness to overflow onto this page, in hopes that what will be shared might contribute to a similar abundance of comfort, joy, and fullness in Him in you as well.
My readings today seemed to emphasize two great Truths. I’ll focus on one of them today, in the interest of length, and Lord willing, offer some thoughts on the second tomorrow.
God’s faithfulness to His promises is uncompromising. He unreservedly seeks His best for His people, and His ability and willingness to protect them is unquestionable.
This reminder began as I read Proverbs 25, an awesome chapter of Solomon’s wisdom. In verses 21-22, we read, “If he that hateth thee be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt lay coals upon his head, and the Lord shall recompense thee.”
As I read this, I was reminded of similar words from Paul in Romans 12. There is no doubt that Paul knew his Scripture! “Recompense no man evil for evil: procure things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you is, have peace with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.” (Romans 12:17-20)
Together, the consistency of these two passages reminded me that we are not to seek sufficiency in ourselves, but instead, to place all trust in God. Self-sufficiency would suggest that we should take vengeance ourselves on those who do us wrong, or on those who hate us. Self-sufficiency suggests that we cannot trust that anyone can handle our problems, or settle our score but us. Self-sufficiency leads us to hate and destroy others, rather than to love them.
God-sufficiency says instead: Let God handle the situation. Give place to God’s wrath (Romans 12:19). After all, He is the stronger, abler party, and His power to convict is much greater than any act of self-vengeance we might dream up. So, instead, we should respond to our enemies with love. We are to feed them when they are hungry, provide them drink when they thirst, and give them clothes when theirs are tattered (Luke 6:29; Matthew 5:40; Matthew 25:31-46). When we do this, we have the assurance, given us by Paul’s admonition in his letter to the Romans, and by Solomon’s words in the Proverb, that God will handle the vengeance Himself. Our love for our enemy, as evidenced by the fruits of generosity it produces, allows God to repay by “heap[ing] coals of fire on his head.” After all, vengeance is His (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19).
This theme came up again when I turned to my reading in the Psalms for the day. In Psalm 70, David is in trouble. He’s in a bad situation, and his enemies are troubling him. But, he refuses to place his trust in his own strength, and seek to be triumphant by his own power. Instead, he turns his trust to God, knowing that if his enemy is to be rightfully defeated, his defeat must come at God’s hands alone. Let’s read:
O God, haste thee to deliver me:
make haste to help me, O Lord.
Let them be confounded and put to shame,
that seek my soul:
let them be turned backward and put to rebuke,
that desire mine hurt.
Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame
who say, Aha, aha.
But let those that seek thee,
be joyful and glad in thee,
and let all that love thy salvation,
say always, God be praised.
Now I am poor and needy:
O God, make haste to me:
thou art my helper and my deliverer:
O Lord, make no tarrying.
We need not doubt that God will be faithful in His promises to protect and guard those He loves. For “we know that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Finally, I think one of the awesome things about the Old Testament Scriptures (and a good reason why we, under the New Covenant, should still spend time in the study of God’s work under the Old Covenant) is that the Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s faithfulness to His Word, His ability to fulfill His promises to His people, and His ability to defend them from the evil of their enemies. My reading in the Old Testament today was Joshua 21. Towards the end of the chapter, I was reminded, once again, of God’s all-fulfilling faithfulness to those He loves:
So the Lord gave unto Israel all the land, which he had sworn to give unto their fathers: and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. Also the Lord gave them rest round about according to all that he had sworn unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them: for the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed nothing of all the good things, which the Lord had said unto the house of Israel, but all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)
Brothers and sisters, don’t doubt the faithfulness of God. What He has said He will do, He will do. When He promises He will protect you from evil, with your trust, He will do it. Find rest in the fullness and sufficiency of His Word, and of these promises!
Posted February 8, 2011 at 6:39PM in Christian Life.
The oft-unrecognized and important distinction between two opposing forms of leadership
In the preface of his work, The Powers to Lead, author Joseph S. Nye, Jr. offers up the following definition of power: “Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants.” I highlighted that statement when I read it, because it struck me, not in a positive way, but in a negative one. Such an outlook on power seems to necessitate such selfishness on the part of the beholder, an attitude that not only suggests that a powerful person must think himself right, but that he must want to make certain his righteousness so badly that he will “affect others,” manipulating them to give him what he desires most.
Humility has been a trait that I have actively sought in my friends, one that I greatly cherish in them, and something that I desire to see more greatly manifested in my own life. Nye’s work is effective in presenting an assessment of what makes a great earthly heroic leader. He suggests that to be a great earthly leader, one must maintain an effective balance of hard and soft power in order to manipulate subordinates to achieve the goals that are set before them – the goals of the leader. This seems a reasonable suggestion in a world filled with selfish desires and an over-abundance of people who seek, more than anything else, to fulfill some so-called American Dream of financial prosperity and physical gratification and comfort. Indeed, what better leader than one who can successfully manipulate followers into believing that his dream is their dream, that if they do things his way, their own desires will be satisfied, and that uncompromising service to his every whim will produce the greatest profit, the greatest pleasure, not only for the leader, but for each person who serves him as well.
These concerns and evaluations seem reasonable for current and aspiring worldly leaders, and, as Nye discusses, for worldly leaders such as Jim Jones who put up a facade, at least temporarily, that his aspirations were spiritual. However, as a Christian who has learned through my spiritual walk to devalue things of this world, it was inevitable that Nye’s book would challenge me to assess how worldly leadership compares and contrasts with spiritual or religious leadership. While Christians make much of the notion of servant leadership, or the idea of serving God and His creation and the people who comprise it as a way to point others to His service, as I read Nye’s book, my own cynical nature prompted me to question this notion, and to consider whether so-called servant leadership is simply a disguised form of the worldly leadership Nye discusses. (more…)