The very best chunk of the day is that delicious morning part before the rest of my 'world' gets up—when all is quiet on the home front and I slip out of bed on tiptoe to curl up with my favorite fleece and my Bible, and yes of course, with my journal and pen. It gets even better in the summer especially on cloudless mornings when the sun is also just rising above the mountains. My favorite perch at such moments is the back step with a cushion for a seat and the sliding glass door at my back…And yes, with my favorite fleece, at least until the sun coaxes me to shed it. I breathe the cool freshness, gaze out beyond the overhang of our giant willow into the beyond of my own green acre so enshrouded with trees it appears to have no ending…and I reflect on the Word and the issues of my heart that it exposes…
I seem to hear God best before breakfast has wakened me to all my daily duties, before I've entered into conversation with mere mortals—my best loved mortals! Maybe my heart is more open, nearer the surface, more vulnerable to being engaged with Truth. I don't know, but mornings are good. Unfortunately I also like evenings. They also are quiet and the duties of the day are now behind…But my mind is not so agile, my heart not so tender; my eyes begin to droop. I wander into other's thoughts and goings on rather than wrestle with my own. Everything becomes virtual until I'm idling my should-be-sleeping hours in perusing Facebook for latest quips or photos--robbing myself of precious morning moments… That by way of confession. Summer's laid back schedules makes this yo-yo of nights vs. mornings much more pronounced. Night usually wins while mornings garner extra sleep. Precious reflections are strewn throughout days….
But there are beach moments with a timely book. And there was yesterday morning—a long quiet perusal of the Word and an 'additive'—good words in a book titled The Explicit Gospel. 1 And there was a missionary speaker from Israel last night…And there are these conversations with my wise husband… God is not limited to my pre-breakfast routine! His Spirit is not saddled by my need for quiet alone spaces of time. So what is He saying these casual summer days?
I'm reminded lately that even a watchdog needs downtime. Or to change idioms, an unending witch-hunt will sooner or later bring up innocent victims if there is not a balancing reflection on positive truth. If you've followed my thoughts for long, you know they tend toward finding what's wrong in my world. Whether it be my inner world or the outer one of the Body of Christ. I don't often get as far as pointing out what’s wrong in the bigger world. It's all messed up. I figure the Body has just what the world needs if we stay on track. So ferreting out truth and error seems to be my bent. But there's this hazard of becoming overwhelmed by the wrong-headed, the mixed-up, the false-but-enticing and the misled—overwhelmed so that cynicism begins to erode hope of truth ever rising to conquer nonsense.
I've been in a season of sniffing about suspiciously and growling. There's illegitimate teaching everywhere. (At least it seems that way…) And there are excellent books written that synthesize Scriptural truth and apply it to present-day anomalies. The Other Side of the River 2 is such. I devoured it on our last sailing trip, processing it alongside Scripture and then writing a review to hopefully alert others to its relevance.
Then I launched into Hunt's (now there's a good name for a watchdog!) Beyond Seduction 3 midstream. My initial enthusiasm, sparked by an excellent section mid-book on the nature of genuine faith, was tempered by overstated 'truths' in another area…reminding me that no author has it all right, none but the Bible is 100% trustworthy. Another sharp-shooting book of recent months was Wandering Stars.4 Wow and Ouch. The author's done some serious research and Scripture sleuthing. Good stuff.
But as my truth-loving bent is drawn to writing of this nature I see its potential to become almost addictive—it feels so good to be 'right all along', to 'have the corner on truth', to 'catch a brother in the wrong', to 'be in the know'. What begins as 'speaking the truth in love' can become an offensive elitism devoid of love. Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up. In know way do I mean to imply that these authors are guilty of such, but I see in myself this tendency to get so 'gung-ho' about right and wrong that cynicism begins to displace the love of the brethren that was my initial motivation!
All that by way of explaining that I'm reminded these days that a watch-dog needs down time. A witch hunt needs boundaries. And I've been realizing (again) lately that my reading and learning and the focus of my life must be God-ward, not always pointed toward error. It is no testimony to the glory of our Almighty God to be overwrought by the deceptions of fallen man…as if man were the measure of all things and God had lost control…
Toward this end I add to my 'plate' books that celebrate God's triumph over evil, books that speak of His supremacy, His remedy-- 'big picture' books. Of course the Bible presents the big picture best from Genesis to the grand finale! Revelation tends to set our times in perspective. Jude and Peter and Paul warn that 'perilous times will come' but they aren't the whole story. And they won't triumph over the true Church of God. She will be a radiant Bride at Christ's coming. Though the love of many will grow cold. Though a great falling away is certain, despite our sincerest yearnings for a mass revival… yet God is in control. The Gospel needs no fortifications. In it lies the power of God for the salvation of anyone who will cast in their lot with Christ. The Bible says all this but I do appreciate teachers who write books synthesizing Scriptural truth into thought-bites that get me chewing it all again and again… You know the adage: "Repetition with variety is the key to learning." Teachers and pastors in the Body do this for us.
For example, I've recently finished David F. Wells superb book: The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World.5 It's both an indictment on the modern church and a rallying cry to return to the foundational doctrines of God, of Christ, of Self and of the Church. Tremendous writing. Daunting to think of writing a review with so much underlining to summarize! Someday soon I hope. And intermittently I dip into: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World 6 by John Piper and others. The title says all. But this week a bright gem came to my door to turn my heart from what's wrong to what is so gloriously right in the world! It's title: The Explicit Gospel. 1 First chapter title: God.
As author Matt Chandler lays a foundation for his presentation of the Gospel in its fullness and yet simplicity, he expounds on Paul's impassioned cry beginning: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom.11:33-36) His thesis is that in order to fully appreciate what God has done at the Cross, we must first be awe-struck by the glory of God Himself. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to turning our attention to the importance of the glory of God. I read such statements as:
"God's glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists." (24)…"The Bible is for us, but it's not about us." … "We are allergic to the idea that everything exists, including us, not for ourselves but for the glory of God." (34)… "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." (Rom.11:36) God's aim is His own glory and the 'endless ever-increasing joy of His people in that glory.' (quoting Piper, 35)…"When you understand the driving force behind everything, all of a sudden there's an eternal amount of joy at our disposal because everything we do is enlightened and enlivened by the endless glory of the eternal God." (36)
"Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?" (Rom.11:35)
And as I reflect on these thoughts and turn to investigate the Scriptures from which they stem it's as though a refreshing breeze is blowing. It whisks away pre-occupation with myself as vigilante of truth, as indispensable defender of the faith, as...as in fact an entity intended for anything less than, more than or other than God's pleasure and glory! This is a relief. It puts the burden back in God's hands, the burden of all that's wrong in the world, the burden of needing to fix it, the burden of myself! A fixation with God's glory—my chief end being to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever-- puts my small 'world' and calling in right perspective.
When life gets in the way of my soul looking to God in gratitude and awe, I have let life loom to large. My focal point is wrong.
I turn often to the Lord's Prayer. It says all this in a few words. Our Father. In Heaven. Hallowed by Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, just like it is in Heaven. Here is a God who is very much in control of Heaven and of earth. He calls me to submit my wishes to His will, done in His way, in His timing, in everything. There's no cause for desperation here that the world (or the church) is 'going to Hell in a handbasket'. We pray for revival. Are we willing for judgment, beginning with the house of God? (I Pet.4:17) Ananias and Sapphira weren't. It seems the fear of God had ebbed in the giddy enthusiasm of the early church. God corrected that. "And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things." (Acts 5:11) Do we mistakenly clamor for the 'feeling' of His 'presence', forgetting the weight of this Glory, forgetting that it is "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”? (Heb.10:31) Do we mistake emotional fervor for worship, carnal insatiability, for the Spirit's moving? I wonder about these things. And I return to the Lord's prayer…
Just give us what we need for today, our daily bread. That is enough. We are your bondservants. We rest in your care. I read of the disciples in Acts 4 as persecution had begun. I see the way they prayed, not for the opposition to dissolve, but for boldness to speak in spite of it, their daily bread--courage. They rested their case with the God who had overseen Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of those who "were gathered together against [Him]…to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place." (Acts 4;27,28) They trusted God to accomplish His will through them however He chose, for His glory above all else.
And I think again of Jesus' own prayer in the face of His greatest temptation—He could have called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have saved His own skin. He could have prayed: "Father, save me from this hour." Instead he said, "But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." (Jn.12:27,28). Hallowed by Your Name… Jesus lived by the Father's design, for the Father's glory. He calls us all to the same. He graces us all to fulfill His design. He supplies the strength, we the yielding. Thy will be done on earth…
To the persecuted church in exile Peter writes: "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins…" What will that love look like? It will be different for each of us as we serve one another with our individual gifts, "as good stewards of God's varied grace…by the strength that God supplies" But what will be the common thread and the end result? "…that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." (I Pet.4:7,8)
"To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
So as you and I reflect on the glory of God, whether it be on boats, or beaches or in our own backyards, let us find consolation and courage in this One who 'sits in the heavens and laughs' at those who oppose Him, for 'blessed are all who take refuge in Him.' (Ps.2:4,12) Come what may, He will win the day!
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Hab.2:14
1 Chandler, Matt. The Explicit Gospel. Crossway Publ.2012. 237pp.
2 Reeves, Kevin. The Other Side of the River. Lighthouse Trails Publ. 2007. 222pp.
3 Hunt, Dave. Beyond Seduction: A Return to Biblical Christianity. Harvest House Publishers, 1987. 264pp
4 Gibson, Keith. Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets. Solid Ground Christian Books, 2011. 312pp.
5 Wells, David F. The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. William B. Eerdman's Publ.,2008. 253pp.
6 Piper, John and Justin Taylor, eds. The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Crossway Books,2007. 179pp. Contributors: David F. Wells, Voddie Baucham Jr., J.Piper, D.A.Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll