Far Above Rubies

"A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies." (Proverbs 31:10)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Transparency = Integrity

"Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" John 1:47.

No guile. No deceit, craft, or trickery. The Hebrew root word means to catch with a bait; a decoy. With Nathanael - what you see is what you get. Jesus sees his heart clearly. What does He see in my heart or yours? What do others see in us? Are we transparent so that Christ can cleary be seen through us? The dictionary defines transparent as, "Easily understood, very clear; without guile or concealment; open, frank, candid." This has always been a benchmark for me in discipling my children. What you say and do is who you are. Do we always achieve that? Of course not. But if you strive for nothing, you hit nothing. The main reason that we participated in Boy Scouts (and it was a Christian, homeschooled troop) was the character parallels I saw in God's Word. I wanted that shaping for Jeremy (and it had a trickle-down effect on Carey). She is very proud of her brother's recent Eagle achievement. This is the Scout Law:

A Scout is - Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

This is a good life model for a Christian, man or woman. It imitates Christ. The very first character trait though is trustworthy. Worthy of trust. What makes you or I worthy of trust? Integrity. "The quality or state of being of sound moral priciple; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity," according to the dictionary. As Christians, sometimes we are more opaque than transparent. People are watching us all of the time. Do we stand out from the culture around us, or do we blend in? Do our words and actions speak clearly of our Master? If you had an opportunity to share the Gospel with that person who is watching you, would he or she listen?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Live Out Thy Life Within Me

Live out Thy life within me,
O Jesus, King of kings!
Be Thou Thyself the answer
To all my questionings.
Live out Thy life within me--
In all things have Thy way!
I, the transparent medium,
Thy glory to display.

The temple has been yielded
And purified of sin;
Let Thy Shekinah glory
Now flash forth from within,
And all the earth keep silence,
The body henceforth be
Thy silent, docile servant,
Moved only as by Thee.

Its members every moment
Held subject to Thy call;
Ready to have Thee use them,
Or not be used at all;
Held without restless longing,
Or strain or stress or fret,
Or chafings at Thy dealings,
Or thoughts of vain regret.

But restful, calm and pliant,
From bend and bias free,
Permitting Thee to settle
When Thou hast need of me.
Live out Thy life within me,
O Jesus, King of kings!
Be Thou the glorious answer
To all my questionings.

Words by Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879)

Click here to listen to the music (by Samuel Wesley).

"Inward Gaze"

Not sure of the exact date that I wrote this, but it was back in 2001, so I would have been fourteen at the time.

"Inward Gaze"
Carey Nofziger, 2001

My gaze is turning inward;
Lord, turn my eyes to those
Who, for the sake of Jesus,
Suffer trials and woes.

My eyes are on myself, Lord,
Please pluck them if you must,
So that I shall be dependant
And in You only trust.

My thoughts are on my fate, Lord,
Please turn them towards the goal
Of planting seeds of gospel truth,
And fishing for some souls.

My heart is broken so, Lord,
Please mend it up again,
So that I can be more cheerful
And be a fisher of men.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Faith in the Furnace

Our beloved pastor, Tommy Nelson, has been very ill the entire summer. He is a remarkable poet, and has published an entire book of his poetry. This is his latest poem inserted in our church bulletin on Sunday:

Faith in the Furnace

The love of God in truth and act
Enlightens, blesses, pole to pole
But in its wide benevolent sweep
It reaches down into The Hole ~
The dark place where the wounded lie
Those in confusion...darkness...low
In rooms whose corridors are slight
Where light from God alone can go.
Where prayer can seem a lifeless fax
Where truth seems brittle on the page
Where faith flies by its instruments
And clings to facts from ancient days.
But ah the wisdom...the perspective...
Oh the vision from its depth
What learning from its high tuition
What different view its hand has left.
Of others, values, God and sin
Thyself, the world and sovereignty
Of purpose, love, the church and suffering
The moment 'gainst eternity.
Before the veiled and dark instructor
Bows his student to beseech
And learns indeed there is no place
That is so deep that God can't reach.

Copyright 2006 by Tommy Nelson

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"He Maketh My Feet Like Hinds' Feet"

One of my favorite books of all time is Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. I could see myself so clearly in the lead character in the book, "Much-Afraid," when I read it years ago. As I read Carey's post, "I Surrender All," that book was the first thing that came to my mind. In the climactic moment of the story, this character voluntarily lays upon an altar and allows the Shepherd to remove a plant that has wrapped itself around her heart, and the pain she suffers as He pulls it out, with all of its roots entangled around her heart, is very great. But when He is finished, she is FREE! Free to hear Him clearly, free to run about the mountains with Him because she now has "hinds feet" that enable her to do so. As I researched this in Scripture, I found that there is not one reference to this allegory, but three....

2 Samuel 22:34, "He maketh my feet like hinds feet: and setteth me upon my high places."
Psalm 18:33, "He maketh my feet like hinds feet: and setteth me upon my high places."
Habakkuk 3:19, "The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."

like hinds' feet...
God must think that this concept is important to state this three times. But, what are hinds' feet? In Hebrew, the word for "hind" is 'ayalah, and means "doe or deer." Why would I want feet like that? "Deer are ungulates, or hoofed mammals. Their legs are well suited for running, whether chasing during the rut or evading danger. Deer also possess a great leaping ability. They bound swiftly across a dense forest or prairie, often jumping 8 feet into the air. The strong muscles of a deer's hind legs provide most of the power for running and jumping. The front legs are ideal for pivoting, allowing a deer to make sharp turns. The top speed of the whitetail is about 35 miles per hour. Whitetails are also good swimmers." (Hunting.net) I must confess, I would like to be able to move like that, both spiritually and physically!

Toward the end of the book, "Much-Afraid has been eagerly anticipating a call from the Shepherd, and not even the fortress-like walls of the canyon could keep her from responding. Neither the deer (that she is following) or Much-Afraid hesitates or is distracted from their purpose. Much-Afraid is fearful no longer--her heart has been transformed! Her focus is single-minded and she's determined to obey. Confident that she is being guided according to His plan, she follows precisely in the footsteps of the deer." (restorationministries.org) Oh that I would follow my Shepherd so closely!

my high places...
The first thing I noticed about this phrase is the pronoun my high places. My high places will not be your high places. They are uniquely chosen by the Shepherd for me and for you. The Hebrew word for "high place" is bamah and can mean a "mountain, a battlefield, or place of worship." He sets us, or makes us to walk, in these diverse settings. From the mountain He gives us a clearer view of the world around us so that we can clearly navigate with His perspective. With our Spiritual armour on, we can move into the battlefield of the day, equipped for His service. If we begin our day in the high place of worship, there is nothing we cannot conquer through Jesus Christ. With the hinds' feet He gives us, as we surrender our all, we can move into the high places with Him. "Keep in mind this wonderful thought: All that you're learning to apply now is just a fortaste of the glorious highest High Places to come when you see the King face to face. But that fact should not diminish in the least the reality of His here and now purpose for your life." (restorationministries.org)

Oh, and by the way, Much-Afraid's name is changed when she receives her hind's feet from the Shepherd. Her new name? Grace & Glory!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Surrender All

For the past month the Lord has taught me many lessons about surrender, and they've all been very painful and/or uncomfortable. Corrie Ten Boom once said, "I hold all things lightly, so it won't hurt for my Father to pry them loose from my hands." I had to learn not to hold on too tightly.

Before I left for Canada at the beginning of this month, Mom bought a signed copy of Elisabeth Elliot's "A Chance to Die" for me to read on the plane. It forever changed my life. As I read, the Lord convicted me of my need to surrender
everything in my life -- something I hadn't done. I experienced small moments of surrender -- where I gave up little things or parts of big things -- but I wasn't living surrender. Right there in the plane I surrendered all to God, not knowing the consequences, but looking forward to the ultimate prize -- Jesus Christ Himself.

Reader, when you surrender all of your life to God the consequences are often costly and usually painful, but "he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose" (Jim Elliot).

During my week in Canada, the Lord took me at my word and required not only the dearest thing to my heart, but my life as I knew it or had thought it would be. Everything was turned over. When I said I wasn't coming back the same Carey as when I left, I wasn't kidding. I left the old Carey behind me.

The moment I returned to the US, God had already taken care of so many things for me that I thought I had to deal with when I returned. There were some things that I had to give up, and I gave them up gladly. But there was still one thing I struggled to surrender. I had held it so closely to my heart, that I did not even realize at first how much it would hurt to let go... but I had to.

I have written before about laying your Isaac on the altar -- a great topic to write about and exhort others to do, but when it came to applying it to myself it was an entirely different matter. Reader, I guarantee you that when you are a child of God being sanctified, the Lord will at some point ask you to surrender something (or someone) very precious to you. Only until you surrender it completely will you even have the chance of getting it back. Maybe your sacrifice will be required and never returned, but I do know one thing: if you do not surrender your heart's desire, you most surely will not get it back.

Does this sound cruel? I sometimes felt that God had dealt cruelly with me. Why did He answer so many prayers and make the situation seem like His will -- only to take it away from me? But when I step back and look over this summer (in particular), I would not change a thing that happened. The spiritual growth brought forth and the deepening that only pain can bring is priceless. Even if I never get back my "Isaac," I take comfort because God worked beauty into me through the furnace -- and I have only a glimpse of the end result. I would go through that over and over again. God's will is perfect.

The entire week I was in Canada, one hymn continually played through my mind -- "I Surrender All." It has become my theme song:

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In his presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me Jesus, take me now.

I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

This past Sunday, I heard a sermon that drove the point home for me: "The Cost of Being a Disciple." When you are a disciple of Christ, you have to follow His example and deny yourself the passions and desires that rule your life, crucify your flesh, take up your cross as Christ did... you must lose your life in order to gain it (Mark 8:35-36). My life is not my own, and if you are a follower of Christ -- neither is yours.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith -- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

~ Philippians 3:7-16 (ESV)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Faithfulness of God

"There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a professed brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely tried fellow pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, 'Who among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.'

When you are tempted to doubt the faithfulness of God, cry out, 'Get thee hence, Satan." Though you cannot now harmonize God's mysterious dealings with the avowals of His love, wait on Him for more light. In His own good time He will make it plain to you. 'What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.' (John 13:7) The sequel will yet demonstrate that God has neither forsaken nor deceived His child. 'And therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all that wait for Him.' (Isaiah 30:18)"

~ from The Attributes of God, by Arthur Pink

Friday, August 18, 2006

He satisfies the longing soul

Psalm 107:1-9 (ESV)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
for His steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom He has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and He delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love,
for His wondrous works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

In my quiet time this morning, I "happened" to open to Psalm 107 and verse 9 "happened" to catch my eye -- "
For He satisfies the longing soul..." Of course, I had to dig into the Hebrew Lexicon.

The Hebrew word used for "satisfies" literally means "to be satiated or enriched" -- blessed in over-abundance. "Longing" denotes running to and fro with a greedy eagerness. What I found particularly interesting was the word used for "soul." Now, when you think of a soul what immediately comes to your mind? My first thought was that it referred to an actual person (such as when we say "the poor soul"), but it's more than just that...
nephesh [neh'-fesh] -- living being (with life in the blood); the man himself, self, person or individual; seat of the appetites; seat of emotions and passions; activity of mind
The Lord does indeed satisfy the hungering soul. We have a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill, and we try to fill this gap with everything else (Christians included) -- success, money, friends, human love, material possessions -- you name it.

Of course, we have human desires. The Lord knows the "longings of my soul," but He often takes those crutches from me to draw myself closer to Him -- a constant reminder that ultimately, my Beloved is the only one who can satisfy me.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Barren Women Rejoice

Last time I posted on this blog, I had spoken of Hannah and how the Lord hearkened to an honest prayer and opened the womb of a barren woman.

As Hannah rejoiced yet over her man child, Samuel, she gets on her praying knees which had served her well and utters one of my favorite verses.

Sa 2:5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

Just today, I stumbled upon verse nine of Psalm 113.

Psa 113:9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

Amen, Lord! How many Biblical women were barren, yet the Lord opened their wombs. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah and Elisabeth, yet none did the Lord forsake. I know a lot can be said and taught from this, but tonight, my heart rejoices in that we, also, serve that same God of miracles.

Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Praise ye the Lord, for He doeth great things for His children; miraculous things for His daughters.

If our Lord Jesus Christ maketh the barren to bare seven children and maketh her a joyful mother then that can only reaffirm that nothing is too impossible for Him.

Matthew 19:26 With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

What, then, have I to doubt, what have I to fear? Nothing, for the Lord, He is my God.

Joshua 2:11 For the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I AM ashamed of the Gospel of Christ....?

I am an avid reader, as is my daughter. I am currently reading Pilgrim's Progress, The Judgement Seat of Christ, and One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven. A quote from this last book by Mark Cahill was very convicting..........

"Many Christians want the lost to simply look at their lives and be able to see that they love Jesus. I suppose that means that the lost will need to infer that they too should love Jesus. I John 2:6 says, 'He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.' No doubt about it, everyone who calls himself a believer must strive to walk like Jesus did. John 4 tells us that Jesus made the first move to talk to the woman at the well. So to walk like He did, we must be available to the Spirit of God to initiate conversations with people as we're out witnessing.

Also, if people are looking at you, whose life are you really sharing--yours or God's? They would not know why you are supposedly such a good person, so you would be sharing your life only. And once you say you are a Christian, non-believers will watch everything you do. They like to see Christians stumble. So when you talk bad about the coach who doesn't give you enough playing time, drop a curse word into the conversation, talk about others behind their backs, etc., the lost are listening. Are you sure you want to witness by your actions alone? I definitely don't want to do that, because sometimes my actions don't portray my Savior in a very good light.

I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to speak at a missions conference at Biola University in Los Angeles. It was a great time, with many folks challenged by the messages God had me deliver. One day during lunch, some students invited me to sit with them. After we chatted a while, one of the girls said, 'Mark, I heard everything you said today, but I am just going to share my faith by my actions.' When people say that, I tell them, 'Oh, you must be thinking of Romans 1:16, 'I am ashamed of the Gospel of Christ...'

They usually respond, 'But that isn't what the verse says.' That's true--the verse actually states, '...I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.' When we don't want to talk about our faith, it is usually because we are ashamed of what people might think of us. However, God commands us to stand for Him and never be ashamed of Jesus. I asked each of those students how they got saved. Their answers were what I expected. 'My parents led me to Jesus.' 'I heard about Him at a revival meeting and made a commitment.' 'I was at church one Sunday and surrendered my life to the Lord.' 'A friend led me to Christ.'

I then said, 'Each one of you has just admitted that you are now a Christian because someone verbally told you about Jesus. Yet you want to come up with a new way to share your faith where you don't have to use words? Suddenly they all realized the imortance of speaking boldly about what they believe. People believe when the Good News is preached and the Spirit of God touches their hearts. So preach the Good News as God (through Paul) tells us to do!" (see Romans 10:13-17).

My deepest appreciation to Rev, Sarah, and Leila for enriching my daughter's life for 8 precious days! You have modeled this challenge, and done it well! "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:12. You reach out to the lost faithfully and inward to the body of Christ as well. That reminds me of Paul's commendation to the Macedonian church, "How that, in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." May our Lord bless you richly!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Woman's Question

Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing
Ever made by the Hand above?
A woman's heart, and a woman's life--
And a woman's wonderful love.

Do you know you have asked for this priceless thing
As a child might ask for a toy?
Demanding what others have died to win,
With the reckless dash of a boy.

You have written my lesson of duty out,
Manlike, you have questioned me.
Now stand at the bars of my woman's soul
Until I shall question thee.

You require your mutton shall always be hot,
Your socks and your shirt be whole;
I require your heart be true as God's stars
And as pure as His heaven your soul.

You require a cook for your mutton and beef,
I require a far greater thing;
A seamstress you're wanting for socks and shirts--
I look for a man and a king.

A king for the beautiful realm called Home,
And a man that his Maker, God,
Shall look upon as He did on the first
And say: "It is very good."

I am fair and young, but the rose may fade
From this soft young cheek one day;
Will you love me then 'mid the falling leaves,
As you did 'mong the blossoms of May?

Is your heart an ocean so strong and true,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.

I require all things that are grand and true,
All things that a man should be;
If you give this all, I would stake my life
To be all you demand of me.

If you cannot be this, a laundress and cook
You can hire and little to pay;
But a woman's heart and a woman's life
Are not to be won that way.

~Lena Lathrop
from I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why Bother to Pray?

"If God is sovereign, and things will be as they are going to be anyway, why bother to pray? There are several reasons. The first is really all we need to know: God has told us to pray. It is a commandment, and if we love Him, we obey His commands. Second, Jesus prayed. People sometimes say that the only reason for prayer is that we need to be changed. Certainly we do, but that is not the only reason to pray. Jesus did not need to be changed or made more holy by praying. He was communing with His Father. He asked for things. He thanked God. In His Gethsemane prayer, He besought His Father to prevent what was about to take place. He also laid down His own will. Third, prayer is a law of the universe. God ordained that certain physical laws should govern the operation of this world. Books simply will not stay put on a table without the operation of the law of gravity. There are spiritual laws as well. Certain things will not happen without the operation of prayer. God could cause books to stay on tables by what theologians call "divine fiat." Everything we pray for could occur in the same way, but that is not how things were arranged. Pascal, the great French thinker, said that in prayer God gives us "the dignity of causality." Bible reading should shape our prayers. Here is a passage from Colossians 3:12-14 (Phillips) which hits me between the eyes and shows me very clearly some changes I need God's help to make.

'As God's picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God Himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.'"

Elisabeth Elliot, from Keep a Quiet Heart