Here I Am; Send Me

"Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Such were the words of Isaiah in answer to God's call, yet we must anticipate the trepidation with which he responds, for he has just recognized his own unrighteousness in view of that of the Lord God.

Likewise as Joshua is given charge of leading the Israelites into the promised land upon Moses' death, he too must have accepted this role with many misgivings and much foreboding. The Scriptures tell us that Joshua was encouraged by both men and God regarding his responsibility. Joshua is told to be strong and courageous by Moses as he passes to reins of leadership (Deut. 31:7), and then the same phrase is repeated by the Lord FOUR times (Deut. 31:23; Joshua 1:6,7 and 9) and finally again by the people he would lead (Jsh. 1:18).

Answering the Lord's call is never a whimsical decision. I recall most vividly being called to lead a men's leadership/discipleship class some years ago, and how unworthy I thought myself to that responsibility. I prayed for direction, asked friends to pray and it was only after some wise counsel that I answered the call.

The counsel was this. . .yes you may be weak, but in recognizing and acknowledging your weakness, God is strong – and it is only then that He can use you. I came to understand that I would not be the teacher – that work is done by the Holy Spirit. My only contribution was to be His instrument.

I remember upon graduating that first class I was presented with a shirt with the title "Instructor" emblazoned across the chest. I knew better and shared with those in attendance that I had not been the instructor – God had. I had merely been a facilitator. I was neither wise enough nor knowledgable enough to teach God's principles, His morals, and His Holy Word.

In the ensuing years of leading those classes I did improve my 'teaching' skills, but that was no more than we are called to do as we hone the particular skills of our Spiritual gifts. There were even times when I found myself being taught by the students I proposed to lead.

I do believe my first Spiritual Gift is teaching, but let us look again at how we receive these Gifts. In enumerating some of the Gifts in 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7)

How many times had I read that passage before the lighs came on? Paul is saying that the Gifts are not worked "by" us but "through" us. We are not using the Gift of XXXX – that work is the Holy Spirit working through us. The Gift is the 'manifestation of the Holy Spirit' as He exerts Himself – as He labors in that mode which we term a Spiritual Gift.

Now think on that for a minute or two. . .God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, is using your God given talents, your experiences, your passions, and your character to glorify Himself. All these things He designed in you at birth, (Psalm 139:13-14), He now puts to use for His glory. There is nothing in this world that thrills me more than to know God is using me for His glory!! 

How many have been called to a ministry, a chore, or a role within the church and refused thinking they were unqualified in some way or another? God did not call the mighty Charleston Heston to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He called a weak-willed, mealy-mouth, fugitive to lead them. What did Moses know about leading a nation of slaves through the desert to an unknown destination? And yet, unqualified – even grossly so – as Moses was, this was God's choice so that He would be glorified.

When we answer God's call to ministry – it is not for our glory. God is glorified in that the church is served, and that the members see how He can use even the least of us. Perhaps they can then say, "If he [you] can do ______ then I can step up and do something."

I pray you will shrug off your doubts and say "Here I am LORD. Send me!"

Burning Your Candle

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
 Edith Wharton (American Novelist and short-story writer, 1862-1937)

I would rethink that quote to, "As we mirror the light of our Lord, His light is multiplied". In Proverbs we read: "The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord. . ." (Prov. 20:27 NKJV)

In speaking to His disciples Jesus said that we are the 'light of the world', (Matt. 5:14-16), and yet He proclaimed that He is 'the light of the world'. (John 8:12) How do we reconcile the two verses?

I think we must first recognize that Jesus wasn't speaking to His small select group of apostles, but to a crowd of people (see Matt. 7:28). So it wasn't an anointed group He referred to as light of the world but all those in attendance. Secondly we would understand that the entire crowd had to be believers, for to be asked to abide by all He was demanding in His Sermon on the Mount would have been folly and foolishness to an unbeliever – just as it is today.

For our many years of walking in the world we were an unlit candle – complete with wick. But God in His wisdom and grace has now touched our wick with the flame of His light and our candle now burns. Certainly not all candles burn equally bright – Paul teaches us that God has granted us a 'measure of faith', (Romans 12:3 NKJV), and that we must grow that faith, (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20; Col 1:9-11; 2:6-7). So too some of our candles burn brighter than others.

In summation we may then conclude that as we surrender to our Lord Jesus and are supernaturally filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, we also supernaturally, become salt and light.

Jesus went on to say that we are not to hide our light – in fact He says our light cannot be hidden – just as you cannot block out the lights of a city on a hill. If we are truly committed Christians our light cannot be hidden – it is as visible as the nose on our face.

Speaking of John the Baptist's light, Jesus noted  that his "was a lamp that burned and gave light. . ." (John 5:35). So let us now address the burning of our light.

Burning is not an option. The ambition to be a shining light is universal, but not everyone is ready to suffer the consequences of being a burning light. I think of Stephen who faced his accusers with God's truth, of Paul who suffered relentless beatings and jailing as he founded churches across Asia and Europe, and of latter day saints like Martin Luther, Madam Guyon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In the western world we seldom are threatened by having our light shine. But there are readers here among our subscribers in China, India, Liberia and elsewhere that are surely braver than I, who shine their lights in an oh-so-dark world. Would I, could I be so brave? Surely, I confess, such is not near the top of my prayers.

There is a price to pay for the right to give the true light of life. That price is yourself. All of your ambition, all of your resources, all of your intellect, and your passion must be directed to a brighter burning lamp.

But just as there is a price there is also a reward for being that brighter lamp. From my own experiences – my years of teaching and discipling men in the church, counseling those in distress, and authoring these pages – I am rewarded by the knowledge that in my weakness, in my incompetence, and my ignorance, God has chosen to use my meager lamp to bring His Light of the World message of forgiveness and salvation. And that my friends, is no small reward.

May I challenge you to be a brighter light. Our God has touched your wick with His mighty flame. What will you do with that light you now emit? Not all are called to be Paul or Stephen or Billy Graham. Sometimes our light seems so dim as if it struggles to brighten a foggy night. Those lights may serve in a soup kitchen or visit the old and infirm. They may teach a children's Sunday School class or volunteer in any number of roles for their church and their community. Scripture does not reveal that a brighter light is more honored or rewarded by God, only that we burn as brightly as we can, that we might to aspire to emit a 'Moses-glow', and as we burn our candles down to the very wick's end, God's Holy light surely shines all the brighter and He is glorified!

Testing

 "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." (Isaiah 48:10)
"Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law. . ."
(Psalm 94:12)

Should we welcome the testing and discipline of God? My wise and wonderful bride loves the cliche', "There is no testimony without a test."

I know of a man, a faithful believer, who for many years shared with his friends about how God seemed to daily empty his basket of blessings on him and his family. It seemed no distress, no trial, no bad thing came their way. He even felt guilty that so many of his church family were oppressed by financial, health, and relationship problems. He was certainly not wealthy, at least not by American standards, but his family was financially comfortable. They enjoyed good health and his children and grandchildren all knew the Lord as their savior. He was surrounded by many friends and – well – life was just good.

And so, as he continued to grow in his faith he wondered why the Lord had not tested him. Somewhere along the line he had heard that if you're not having occasional journeys into a valley then perhaps your faith is too weak to be tested. Similarly he heard that Satan doesn't bother with those who aren't a threat to him. So, while not looking for cloudy skies, he did wonder.

You see the greatest test of our trust in God is when we have no-one else to turn to. As long as we're on the mountain top we give God the glory, we vocally praise and thank Him for His abundant ongoing providence. But mountain tops don't drive us to our knees in despair, crying out for relief, praying for mercy, begging for a cure, or employment, or forgiveness.

Its much harder to praise God when life gets hard, when you have an unfaithful spouse or a rebellious and delinquent child, when the job you thought would go on indefinitely suddenly disappears, and you wonder how you'll pay the rent and how you will feed your children; or when a loved one is stricken with an illness that may take them from you and additionally drive you into unbelievable indebtedness. That's when many would look up, perhaps shake a fist, and say "Why me Lord?" – "I don't deserve this!" But our God says "When you are weak, them I am strong"- "My grace is sufficient".

Though it may be hard, I would urge you to look at your affliction from a different viewpoint.

Let us first take another reading of our opening verse  – Isaiah 48:10. I typically use the NIV as a default interpretation because it is much easier to read than the King James. In some cases the interpretations are just as reliable but then, in some cases, as here, the rendering leaves us with an incomplete understanding. Reading from the KJV, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."   Note the difference in the second part of the verse – the word 'chosen' verses 'tested'. The difference here is that the Hebrew word, bachar, is from a root – to try; such as, "I will try you out on my softball team – I choose you for  a trial run" Thus the KJV 'chosen' is far closer in interpretation than the NIV or ESV or NKJV 'tested'.

What the Lord is trying to get across is that He has chosen you to be tested. In His great love for you He has chosen you for a test of your faith, and in that sense we should indeed rejoice in that test. God has chosen me. . .

Let affliction come – God has chosen me. Poverty may intrude at my door, but God is already in the house. Sickness may invade, but we have a Salve ready – God has chosen me! Whatever might bring me to tears, I know that He has "chosen" me. Even in the valley of the shadow of death He says, "Fear no evil; for I am with you".

As for the 'man I knew' and what became of his life on the mountain top – that man was your author and he was indeed tested. He not only survived his journey into the valley – he was, I was, by God's good grace, victorious. I was surrounded by the family of God who bolstered my faith, showed me His face, and through them I knew His faithfulness –  that He was walking me, guiding me through the valley. Not only would I not walk the valley alone, but I would come through victorious. So I praise Him for loving me enough to choose me for a test. I pray you are chosen, for by so you may draw nearer to God than you would you ever know.

Trust Him and be blessed. . .

  

This Is The Day

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
Here's a verse we all know well; words we have put to song and we sing them to our Creator God. If we were to back up a few verses we would find that the psalmist is referring to the Cornerstone of our faith, and the "day the Lord has made" is the day of our salvation through Christ Jesus.
I believe God honors our appropriating this verse out of context. But how many of us really begin our day with such expectant praise! How might our days be different if, as we begin our day in prayer, that prayer was in gratitude and eager anticipation of what our Father God has planned for us that day?
How might our attitudes blossom and our demeanor be uplifted, if we would focus on one truth – That this may be the very day that your Father in Heaven has determined to be the most wonderful, fulfilling, blessed day of your life – 'A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over'. Why could it not be? Why shouldn't it be so?
I think of how we might greet each day with the anticipation of God's grace, provision, and blessings; of the opportunities He will make available to us today to be His hands and feet; of being the salt and light He has called for us to be. I think of the overwhelming honor of being used by my Father to further His holy kingdom. I think of the wonderfulness of His holy word and how, through that book, we are allowed to know Him and to seek His righteousness. I think of the comfort He allows me, knowing that when I stumble, when I fail He has already forgiven me that failure, that He will pick me up, dust me off, and hold my hand going forward.
We never know what today may bring. It may bring calamity, or malady, distress, or even death. Yes, Jesus warned us that our world is full of trouble and we will often have to endure such, but that trouble is not of God. He would not tell us to rejoice and be glad in the new day He has made only to burden that day with trouble.
What a wonderful sensation it is to know as I lay down my Bible each morning, stand up and walk out into the new day, that I have this sense of empowerment, knowing that I am loved by God, that I am His child and heir to His kingdom. He has formulated a plan for each of my days that I might prosper, have hope and a future; and that He lives within me through His Holy Spirit. Is that not awesome?
I noted above that this may be the day He has set aside as the pinnacle – the highest mountain top you will ever know. How much greater, how much higher might that mountain top be if you began your day in anticipation of such an experience. If we were to begin our day in such holy anticipation, when the blessings do occur, how much greater is our joy! "He really did. He really blessed me over and above anything I imagined!"  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him". (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV) And now, being in the right frame of mind, we instantly know the source of our blessing and we eagerly give thanks to that Source.

I recall some years ago sharing with friends how abundantly God had blessed me and how, in my prayers of gratitude I would say to God that He had outdone Himself and no blessing could be greater. And sure enough, just as if to say "Oh Yeah, you think that was good – how about this!", and He would bring a new and greater blessing.
And if per chance the day does not bring you to the mountain top, it has still been a day of joyous anticipation as our heart and soul focuses on the goodness and faithfulness of God, rather than the travails of life.

We do serve an awesome and mighty God. Blessed be His Holy Name!!

A Fearfully Wonderful Body

There are several verses that speak to God's loving and meticulous manner of bringing each one of us to life.

One of my favorite passages is from Psalm 139. It says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV). (See http://www.weeklywitness.com/a-love-letter-from-god/)

The KJV and NKJV weakly translate 13b as "You covered me in my mother’s womb." The word 'covered' only partially interprets the original Hebrew "sakak". The better, more complete rendering is to weave or knit.

Albert Barnes, in a late 18th century commentary, explained the verse thusly: "The word here rendered cover means properly to interweave; to weave; to knit together, and the literal translation would be, "Thou hast woven me in my mother womb," meaning that God had put his (hers/yours/my) parts together, as one who weaves cloth, or who makes a basket…. The original word has however, also the idea of protecting, as in a booth or hut, woven or knit together. . .of boughs or branches…."

We should see, as David did, the human body as an especially designed covering, and a vehicle for an especially designed personality. Aside from a spiritual or scriptural view of the body, any scientific study of the harmony, the orchestration of the intricate working of muscles, organs, and mind leaves me wonderstruck.

Following this assertion of intricately divine creativity is David's own proclamation, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made…" 'Fearfully' is in the sense of being in awe or reverence. David says he is awed by the wonder of his physical being and the soul in residence. He goes on to speak of God's omniscience in that He saw "my unformed body" before it was made (Ps. 139:15), and that He established the days of my life before they came to be (vs. 16; Jer. 1:5).

What consideration do we make of our bodies. To agree that we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made only scratches the surface of our duty to maintain and protect this earthly shell.

Paul said our bodies are as houses or tents, yet Job said these houses are of clay and their foundations are of dust (2 Cor. 5:1; Job 4:19). Both Peter and Paul likened our bodies to tabernacles or temples (2 Peter 1:13 ASV;  1 Cor. 3:16-17), and Jesus warned us about the foundations we choose to build our house on (Matt. 7:24f). We are commanded to sacrifice our bodies (Romans 12:1) and to honor God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15; 18-20).

How wonderful is it that God is busy designing a physical shell for you and me while at the same time He has built a  home, and has provided a lighted path to that home, for the day our shell is no longer needed. Think also about the fact that your body is unlike any other body ever created. We've all heard the complimentary adage "When God made him/her, He threw away the mold!" Well my friend, that's exactly what happened when God made you – He threw away the mold. He has never, and will never make another person just like you. There are no clones.

Before you were ever a smile on your parents face, God had a need. He needed someone with a specific and unique role for His kingdom and so He designed you to fit that role. No one else can or will fulfill that purpose. If you don't fulfill it, then it will go unfinished – empty – forever lost.

That is why you are so important to Him. If you have ever designed and/or built anything unique you can begin to understand how precious you are to God. Think about the possibility of designing your child before conception. Consider how diligent you might be in choosing their personality, skills, intellect, physique, etc. Then as you first hold this perfect design imagine your elation of knowing you have contributed to the wonderfulness of who this child is. This is what I think God sees at our birth.

That we have red hair, black hair, or no hair; that we are articulate of speech, or stutter as did Moses; that we are leaders or followers; whatever characteristic or attribute we enjoy, or thorn in the flesh we might be  burdened with, is by God's will and plan. Yes I believe God even designs our shortcomings – not our sins – but which of the Biblical heroes were not afflicted with some failing characteristic, and how often did God not use that characteristic to show His glory? God did not intend mankind to be afflicted with the great maladies and calamities brought about by the fall, but He certainly can use them to proclaim His glory as we are victorious over these things in His name.

Take heart my friend and rejoice in knowing that you are special – no – more than special – you are uniquely designed by God for God, and with that knowledge you should stand tall, shoulders back, proudly proclaiming God's personal stamp of approval on your individuality. Do not dismay that your contribution may not shine as brightly as another. There have been many great preachers, but only one Charles Spurgeon, many great evangelists, but only one Billy Graham, and many great missionaries, but only one Mother Theresa.

Remember God's promise from the prophet Jeremiah – "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Be blessed.