Sunday, January 31, 2016

Called by God to do what?



Paul might hold the world’s record for the longest sentences. He had much to say and wanted to pack as much truth into every line, every sentence. Here is one that is more than 135 words:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1–7)

Chambers picks out one thought from these many words: the idea of being called by God. Before I read what he wrote, I want to record my own thoughts (and in shorter sentences than Paul used). The idea of having a calling once bothered me because I did not sense God calling me to anything in particular. My interests are vast. I could do many things and have tried many, but nothing seems to hold me for long. I wondered if I’d been left out in the “calling” department. Then at a writers’ conference, the main speaker set me free from this concern. She said, “We are not called to be writers. We are called to love and obey God. Today you might be writing; tomorrow He might ask you to do something else.”

Some might agree that a Christian calling is to do all that God says, but no person can fulfill that in one lifetime. A calling based on what He asks of me is more specific and suited to the gifts He has given me, the circumstances where He places me, and the opportunities that He lines up for me.

However, Chambers has a different take on calling. He says, “Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the Gospel of God.”

He bases this on the first part of that long sentence where Paul said that it was God who did the calling, setting him apart for the gospel. Paul’s focus was not on his own character or personal holiness or anything else that might make him more desirable in his own eyes. Chambers says Paul was unconscious of himself, separated by God for one purpose—to proclaim the Gospel of God.

I’ve thought about this all day. Yes, I agree that I’m to tell others about Jesus Christ, yet there are many ways to do this. Also, I have not been given Paul’s gifts, circumstances or opportunities. However, one thing keeps popping into my mind. As a new Christian, God impressed on me that He would use all things for good in my life, the good being that I would become like Jesus. He didn’t say that I would be like Paul, or like anyone else. Of course, being like Jesus is one lofty goal, an incredible ‘calling’ that only God can fulfill.

Then I began thinking about the obedience of Jesus. Sometimes He preached. Sometimes He taught His disciples, or He ate and drank with sinners, or He healed the sick, or cast out demons, or confronted false teachers and religious hypocrites. Aside from the final obedience of dying on the cross, it seems to me that His calling was varied and unfocused, not at all only one thing (like proclaiming the gospel), but a host of obedient actions.

Paul was called to be an apostle set apart for the gospel yet there are many ways to declare the good news of redemption. It could be orally, or in writing, or in silent acts of love. As Chambers says, redemption is at the root of it, not that I can do this great thing that God has done. Yet I can respond daily to the fact of my redemption by doing whatever He might be asking me to do. That seems more of a calling than trying to imitate Paul or anyone else.

Bob was out of his “cell” today when I got there after church. They were taking him for an x-ray. He had to wear a mask, but he was no longer shut in ‘solitary confinement’ and was very glad about that. I took some financial papers so we had a ‘project’ of balancing statements, which was better than looking at the clock. Then two couples showed up for a visit. We were blessed by their presence, conversation, and prayers. After that, our son brought a pizza for supper, another blessing with good conversation.

Bob’s test results are still not back, but his oxygen input is turned down to 1, and they are going for 0 in the morning. If he can breathe without it, they will keep him for a day or two to make sure, but this is a vast improvement. I am so thankful.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The dilemma of obedience



When I was a new Christian, my sister, who had been recently saved through the testimony of a missionary in a foreign country, told me to read the Bible until God spoke to me, then write down what I heard from Him. This principle has served me well. Before using digital files, I filled dozens of notebooks with the things God said to me personally. Some of them read like love letters.

Chambers did the same, but his writings are often complex. Readers not totally familiar with the Bible and principles of Christian living may not understand what Chambers heard from God. However, if the Lord uses his words to speak to their hearts, it will come through loud and clear.

Today, he writes about sharing with others what God says. The example is young Samuel who had never heard from God, but the Lord came to him several times. The boy thought it was the priest, Eli, but the priest told him it was the Lord.

And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. (1 Samuel 3:10–15)

God didn’t order Samuel to share this with Eli; he had to decide that for himself. He seemed to feel that he must shield this old priest from the bad news, but he also seemed to know that he must do so lest he put a barrier between himself and God. It was a tough decision.

This type of decision crosses my path many times. I have a relative that belongs to a cult. I am praying for him, and we have often talked about spiritual matters. He is utterly deceived in so many areas, but also well trained to resist anyone who shows him biblical truth. I’ve prayed for him for many years. Do I tell this ‘Eli’ in my life what God has shown to me? Do I say what comes to mind? Do I take advantage of every opportunity to show him what the Bible says? Or do I wait on the Holy Spirit to open his heart?

For me, this is a dilemma that depends totally on listening for the voice of God. But this is difficult because He could direct me either way. That is, I know what His Word says about speaking up, about waiting on Him, and about His timing and not mine, but my own heart often interferes. I want God’s truth to be known, and I want this relative to know it, but I cannot ram it down a resistant throat.

Chambers says to “get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord’ and life will become a romance.” He is right. In all pressing situations, I not only need to ask Him to speak, but also make time to listen, and particularly to do what He says. As I listen and obey, my hearing improves!

Chambers adds one more thought: Never seek the advice of another about anything God puts before me as a decision I must make before Him. That is, if I ask human advice instead of God’s direction about when to speak, Chambers says I will nearly always side with Satan. I need to remember Paul who heard the Lord calling him to preach to the Gentiles. He said, “I did not immediately consult with anyone.” (Galatians 1:16) Instead, he spent a long time with the Lord to make certain that he was “not running or and not run in vain.”

My hubby is discouraged. The doctor put on the whiteboard in his room that discharge would be “five days or greater.” Bob has not been in there for weeks and weeks, but he has been very healthy for years. This is a trial for him. He is grateful I am there and thankful for the care he is getting, but he says being in isolation seems like being in a prison cell. The hospital staff are not going into his room very often, likely because of the suit/mask/gloves routine each time. He still has crackling in his lungs and other nasty symptoms, besides the cough that keeps him from having much sleep. He is tired and wants to breathe some fresh air that does not get fed into him through a tube. He asked for prayer regarding his attitude.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hearing His Voice



Sometimes I procrastinate instead of eagerly reading the Bible and praying. I get the notion that God’s will is going to be difficult, impossible or just no fun at all. My conscience pokes at me and I know that all of that is a lie, which makes me wonder why I fall for it. Chambers rebukes me today for imagining such things by quoting the psalmist:

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

A quick look through Psalm 119 repeats the same thing: God’s will is delightful and the psalmist enjoys keeping His commands. Chambers also quotes a few verses where Jesus rebukes His disciples for having a spirit contrary to His Spirit.

I sense that God is speaking to me, but how do I know this is Him? It sounds a bit like Saul/Paul when Jesus spoke to him at his conversion and he responded with “Who are you, Lord?” but the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 26:15) After that, Paul had no doubts. When Jesus spoke to him, he knew who was speaking.

I can relate to this. Once Jesus came into my life, the voice of God began to speak in ways that overwhelmed me. He revealed the depths of my sinfulness and ignorance. He showed me ways I tried to be a good person but without His Spirit. He also kept affirming His great love for me, and affirming our personal relationship. He even told me: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

After becoming a Christian, I hear Him speak and know that He knows me. The ‘they follow me’ part is not as consistent though. Serving God is not always a piece of cake. It can produce fatigue and include great stress or sadness. Obedience resulted in the Son of God sweating great drops of blood. Nevertheless, underneath those surface negatives is the great positive of knowing what He asks is the will of God. I just need to always remember that doing it and being deeply delighted go hand in hand.


Bob is feeling much better today. The infectious disease specialist came in again. He said not all the tests were back yet, but “if he has any of those diseases, he would not be improving.” He couldn’t give a date where Bob would be off the oxygen, out of isolation, or able to go home, but he was very positive. PTL

One of our sons brought his dad a hamburger for lunch. One of his sisters showed up a bit later with treats. We had a game of Cribbage. The sun was shining all day in a cloudless blue sky — and the snow is melting. All good news!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Be careful about picking on anyone . . .



Saul, before he became a Christian and his name was changed to Paul, hated anything that went against his idea of proper faith in God. He was a Pharisee, well-educated and sure of himself. However, one day during his rampage against Christians, he was confronted by Jesus Christ and a blinding light.

And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14)

A goad is pointed instrument used for urging on oxen, horses and other beasts of burden. From this came an idiom or proverb, “to kick against the goad” which means ‘to offer vain and perilous or ruinous resistance to authority in such a way as to cause harm or suffering to oneself.’ In other words, “Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are hurting yourself by your resistance.”

Saul may have meant well, at least in his own evaluation of what he was doing, but as Chambers says, those set on their own way in obstinacy and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. These actions may not hurt others, but every time I stand on my rights and insist on doing whatever I want to do, I am resisting the authority of God the Son. In effect, that is persecuting Jesus.

What a crushing thought that I could vex and grieve the Spirit of God. When Saul realized he was doing it, he was immediately helpless. The blinding light took his sight, but this blinding light of truth took the fight right out of him. Within days, he submitted his life to Christ, holding nothing back. No more persecution.

Sometimes I’m shocked that persecution can come from religious people. It might be from those who form their own belief system against the plain teaching of Scripture. It might also be from those who adhere and teach the Gospel, yet their lives give lie to what they profess to teach.

I could also teach truth and not live it — and this is the attitude that persecutes Jesus Christ. He is conscious of one thing only—a perfect oneness with the Father. He tells me, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” When I do my own thing and go my own way, it is not out of meekness nor perfect oneness with Him, but a self-willed determination to be godly, making my spiritual life all about me instead of all about Him. That is most hateful.

Saul was antagonistic toward Christians too, even with murderous intent. While my self-righteousness might not go that far, any self-righteousness springs from anti-Christ sinfulness. In Saul’s case, Jesus asked him why he was persecuting Him, taking personal any action against His people. He lives in those who truly believe, making how I treat other believers the same as how I am treating Jesus. This is a strong and sobering message and a genuine test of my relationship with Him.

There is another thought here. Jesus took a whip after the money-changers and called the Pharisees hypocrites and white-washed tombs. He was antagonistic toward self-righteous pretenders, not true believers. I am not Jesus and cannot always know who is who in the religious world, but the story of Saul and the actions of Jesus must be carefully considered. I am to “love my enemies” but Jesus is not telling me to “be nice” and disregard hypocrisy and false teaching, not in myself nor in anyone else.

Perhaps these are both sides of the same issue: keep my relationship with Him true and honest for when I do, then He will give me light, not to blind me but to show me how to relate to others.

Last night’s infectious diseases specialist discovered that Bob tested positive as a child on the test for TB. He has never had it so the doctor figured it was likely a false positive. However, taking no chances, he ordered more tests. Carriers of TB can come down with this awful disease when weakened by something like CLL. They can also give it to others. Since that has not happened, the tests should be negative, but just to be safe, they put him in an ultra isolation room that requires better masks and more precautions.

One good thing from this is that the nurses are not in there every few minutes waking him up! He might get some more much needed sleep. He does feel a bit better today too.

Another good sign is that he is highly annoyed that he cannot go out of the room for 3-4 short walks that he’s enjoyed the past couple of days. But a bright spot: two visitors brought a container of oatmeal raisin cookies, his favorite kind. At least he does not have to wear a mask (they are tight and totally uncomfortable) so he can eat this welcome treat!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anxiety



Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

In the time of Christ, the cares of this world were more basic than they are in my life. I seldom worry about having enough water, food, or clothes to wear. However, as Chambers says, there are other things that try to choke the life of Christ in His people such as: time or lack of time; friends or lack of friends; or more to the point right now for me: difficult circumstances. Actually, the cares of this world are a steady trickle all the time. Without the Spirit of God to block my sinful responses, they would become a flood.

Like every issue of life, Jesus offers Himself as the solution. Even though common sense insists that I must consider the cares of this world, He says — “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

In other words, if there is any competition for my thoughts, plans, energies, I’m to put my relationship with God in first place. For me, this begins with morning devotions. I may not post what God says to me until later in the day, but my day begins in the Bible and with prayer. My intention is to let those thoughts be on my mind for the rest of the day.

This passage ends with a thought about the importance of this daily routine. Jesus says — “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)

How true. I’ve a husband in the hospital, a dental appointment, and a host of other things on my to-do list and on the back burner. I could spend the day worrying about all that, and about what I can get done tomorrow or before the week is over, but today has enough to deal with. If it stresses me, He says this:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)

When my heart is thankful, in prayer, and at peace, no matter what comes along I am able to hear the Spirit of God. He will tell me what to think, say, or do, and sometimes He deals with or even removes the issues before I notice them.

Last night it was raining. I didn’t have an umbrella. (After all, it is January in Alberta) My car was parked at the far end of the hospital lot. When I stepped outside, the rain stopped. I walked to my vehicle, got in, and the rain started up again. Do not be anxious about anything — His eye is on this sparrow . . . 

Another doctor came in to see Bob this afternoon. He is a specialist who diagnosis tough cases. He had dozens of questions and comments, then ordered some new tests and was a huge encouragement. The puzzle remains: why can’t Bob breathe without being hooked up to oxygen? Why does he have blisters on his lips? Why is he coughing without bringing up anything? What is causing these and other symptoms? So far, there are no answers. At least the fever, sweats and weakness has cleared up. My prayer is that this doctor is given wisdom to solve the other puzzles.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Simple Life

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25–30)
Chambers says, “A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us — if we are not simple.”

In my mind, when referring to a person, simple means without much sense, a simpleton. In the Old Testament, this is usually the sense of it; a simple person is someone without intelligence or common sense. However, in the New Testament, my ESV Bible gives only one use (simplicity) and in this verse it is the word for holiness:
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
Chambers uses the term “simple statement” in the sense of being uncomplicated, of relying on the Lord in a simple trust that does not question what my Father is doing or why. I know He is taking of me, much like a child trusts that her loving father is doing the same so there is no need to question or fret.

Chambers asks how this simplicity happens, then answers his own question. I am simple when I receive the Spirit of God, recognizing and relying on Him in obedience as He presents truth to me through His Word. When I do that, life becomes amazingly uncomplicated or simple.

In the Matthew passage, Jesus talks about God caring for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. They don’t think about how to please God; they just live by the principle of life in them. To apply that, the principle of life in me wholly rests on the fact that Jesus lives in me. As I live in right relationship to Him, never thinking that I know better, never letting the cares of the world become an issue, and never forgetting that “much more” care of God, then my life becomes incredible simple. Like lilies in the field, I can grow where I am planted, live according to the new life God has given me, and know that He is taking care of everything else.

These past few days with my husband’s life on the line, we have talked how life has become simple, focused, reduced to the basics. It is ‘one foot ahead of the other’ without much else to consider. We do what the medical people tell us, and trust the Lord for His will to be done, hoping that it will be an outcome of living, not dying. I come home, eat, sleep, take care of the essentials, and refuse all confusing or troublesome distractions that pull me away from the simplicity of trusting my Father to take care of every detail.

Living through a challenge such as this is a lesson in the simplicity that Chambers writes about. For us, it is not a chosen simplicity, but this is often the way that God teaches His children. I don’t pick the classroom, but He puts me in it and teaches me vital things about life with Him. In the experience of these ‘lessons,’ I can see a better way, a deeper way to walk with God.

Also, these days of simplicity make me realize that depth is not about the complexities of theology or the debates that go on in the echelons of higher learning. It is about laying aside issues and questions and separating myself to total trust in every area of life, trusting my Father to sort it out and keep me under His protective wings every moment of every day, no matter what is happening. It is being like a child.

Bob is feeling better today; no fever, pulse is slower, blood oxygen is level. He had 3-4 short walks without gasping for air. He is still getting oxygen, still having nose bleeds from it, and his feet are very swollen. He slept four hours in one stretch during the night, thanks to half a sleeping pill. The doctor is concerned about the slow progress, so has ordered a CT scan on those clogged lungs sometime tomorrow. The high point today was the pizza brought in by our dear friends . . .  and later on I brought him a decaf coffee from Tim’s — simple stuff to make him smile.