GOD’S FAMILY OF FRIENDS

That family is the church of the living God, the support and foundation of the truth. 1 TIMOTHY 3:15

God offers you a family of friends and friends who are family—his church. When you transfer your trust into Christ, he not only pardons you; he places you in his family of friends.

“Family” far and away outpaces any other biblical term to describe the church. “Brothers” or “brothers and sisters” appears a whopping 148 times between the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation.

God heals his family through his family. In the church we use our gifts to love each other, honor one another, keep an eye on troublemakers, and carry each other’s burdens.

from CURE FOR THE COMMON LIFE

Wise Reactions to Criticism

Philippians 2:1-11

How should we face the upsetting comments of other people? What is the right response to criticism?

First, when criticism arises, maintain a quiet spirit. Do not become defensive or loud, and restrain any outburst, though that may feel right at the moment. Some people will use the excuse, “I just have a short fuse. That’s how God made me.” This is a poor argument; we can’t blame the Lord when we fail to control our own bad temper. Such responses are unhelpful, unhealthy, and unacceptable.

Second, we should not attempt to defend ourselves immediately. Pride, not genuine honesty and reflection, usually motivates this response. Whenever possible, it’s wise to allow time for the initial shock and irritation to pass before offering any defenses or theories. Third—and this is a tough one—we must ask the Holy Spirit to show us if the problem is our fault. Are the accusations true? Is it possible that a loving friend was led by God to reveal something unpleasant about us? We do not like to think that we are ever wrong; however, we know that as sinful men and women, we cannot be right all of the time. For this reason, there is always a chance that a conflict in our lives may actually be our fault. When people care enough to confront us in this way, we should be gracious about receiving and considering their perspective.

The Lord often speaks to us through other people. If He is trying to communicate something to you through a brother or sister in Christ, challenge yourself to be open to His message—even if it hurts.

Jephthah’s Daughter

“Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:31)

The story of Jephthah has been a stumbling block to many who interpret it as teaching that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter to God as a burnt offering. As he was preparing to face the Ammonite armies, he had made the vow recorded in our text, if God would only give him the victory. His only child—a beloved daughter—was then first to meet him at his return, and so it was she who had to be offered.

It should be remembered, however, that Jephthah was a man of true faith (Hebrews 11:32-33), and he would never have vowed to disobey God’s prohibition against human sacrifice. The problem is that the Hebrew conjunction waw (translated “and” in our text) is very flexible in meaning depending on context. Here, “or” is better than “and.”

That is, Jephthah vowed that whatever first came out to meet him would be dedicated to the Lord: If a person came out (Jephthah was probably thinking of a servant), he or she would be dedicated to God’s service at the tabernacle, as Hannah later dedicated Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11). Or if an animal from his flock came out, it would be sacrificed.

His daughter, out of love for her father and gratitude to God for His deliverance from the Ammonites, insisted that her father keep his vow. Since that meant that she, as a perpetual servant at the tabernacle, could never have a husband and children, she “bewailed her virginity” for two months (not her impending death) and then “returned to her father,” so that he could keep his vow, and throughout her life “she knew no man” (Judges 11:38-39). Instead of a strange tale of human sacrifice, this is the story of the love of a God-fearing father and daughter for each other and for their Lord. HMM

I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument

“I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument.” (Isa. 41:15.)

A BAR of steel worth five dollars, when wrought into horseshoes, is worth ten dollars. If made into needles, it is worth three hundred and fifty dollars; if into penknife blades, it is worth thirtytwo thousand dollars; if into springs for watches it is worth two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. What a drilling the poor bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, the more it is hammered, and passed through the fire, and beaten and pounded and polished, the greater the value.

May this parable help us to be silent, still, and longsuffering. Those who suffer most are capable of yielding most; and it is through pain that God is getting the most out of us, for His glory and the blessing of others.—Selected.

“Oh, give Thy servant patience to be still,
And bear Thy will;
Courage to venture wholly on the arm
That will not harm;
The wisdom, that will never let me stray
Out of my way;
The love that, now afflicting, knoweth best
When I should rest.”

Life is very mysterious. Indeed it would be inexplicable unless we believed that God was preparing us for scenes and ministries that lie beyond the veil of sense in the eternal world, where highly-tempered spirits will be required for special service.

“The turning-lathe that has the sharpest knives produces the finest work.”

He began to wash the disciples’ feet

“He began to wash the disciples’ feet.” John 13:5

The Lord Jesus loves His people so much, that every day He is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions He accepts; their deepest sorrow He feels; their slenderest wish He hears, and their every transgression He forgives. He is still their servant as well as their Friend and Master. He not only performs majestic deeds for them, as wearing the mitre on His brow, and the precious jewels glittering on His breastplate, and standing up to plead for them, but humbly, patiently, He yet goes about among His people with the basin and the towel.

He does this when He puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. Last night, when you bowed the knee, you mournfully confessed that much of your conduct was not worthy of your profession; and even tonight, you must mourn afresh that you have fallen again into the selfsame folly and sin from which special grace delivered you long ago; and yet Jesus will have great patience with you; He will hear your confession of sin; He will say, “I will, be thou clean”; He will again apply the blood of sprinkling, and speak peace to your conscience, and remove every spot.

It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the oft recurring follies of His wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of His erring but yet beloved child! To dry up a flood of rebellion is something marvellous, but to endure the constant dropping of repeated offences—to bear with a perpetual trying of patience, this is divine indeed! While we find comfort and peace in our Lord’s daily cleansing, its legitimate influence upon us will be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness. Is it so?

The trees of the Lord are full of sap

“The trees of the Lord are full of sap.” Psalm 104:16

Without sap the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life—a vital principle infused into us by God the Holy Ghost, or we cannot be trees of the Lord. The mere name of being a Christian is but a dead thing, we must be filled with the spirit of divine life. This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the sap, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery.

Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Ghost entering into man and becoming man’s life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon the flesh and blood of Christ and is thus sustained by divine food, but whence it cometh and whither it goeth who shall explain to us? What a secret thing the sap is! The roots go searching through the soil with their little spongioles, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases, or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark. Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hid in Him; this is the secret of the Lord. The radix of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself. How permanently active is the sap in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy—not always in fruitbearing, but in inward operations.

The believer’s graces, are not every one of them in constant motion? but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living upon Him. As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life.