Make Like A Bee: Extract Some Good

Bee clinging to flower

Can what is effortful be graceful, too?

I would have thought them opposites. But after gazing at this bumblebee, I wonder.

Because exertion and elegance were together on display. And I think they often stay together in the way of faith.

Exertion And Elegance

A Taming Grace is the working title of “that meekness book” that’s still writing me. And I know that these two—exertion and elegance—go together in meekness, even as they did in the delicate, determined precise dance of the bumblebee.

Meekness is a fruit of grace and a work of faith. It is the freeing power that helps us to choose what we did not choose, and go through trials we meet, not just somehow but victoriously. It takes great grace and immense effort to yield to the hard and to seek the good.

The meek are always looking for the good. Their exertion is elegant. It’s graceful.

Meek Like A Bee

But what again does meekness have to do with bumblebees?

Well, we need meekness when unfair stings, for one. And meekness helps us call to mind that God is good and that it is good to be near God. Meekness helps us stay in our own lane. It reminds us God will provide all our needs and that if we don’t have it, we don’t need it.

To extract takes work. It takes work when we feel mistreated, misunderstood and hurt to pull out some good. To be sorrowful and always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10) means we can extract some good.

For the record, I can only ever do that and work meekness out because God is working his sweet will in me (Philippians 2:12-13).

Bumble bee extracting nectar
Extracting

Effortful

How busy this bumblebee! How methodical and purposeful his movement, how tenacious and clinging his grip. He works so hard. Six legs tense, clasping tight before he thrusts that tongue down deep into each purple petal. Extracting.

We too have to work to extract the good. Granted, unless we’re talking about about teeth we seldom use the word extract. It means to remove or take out, especially by effort or force.

How hard the bumblebee works to extract that sweet nectar. Now I wonder, Do I? Do I work as hard to pull out the good in the hard in my house?

Spiritual Bees Extract Good

If I’m a spiritual bee I do. Proverbs 11:27 says, The one who diligently seeks good finds favor. The good is there to be found.

In his 400 year-old classic, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry compared the meek to “spiritual bees.”

There is no provocation given us at any time but, if it be skillfully and graciously improved, good may be gotten by it. …[We may] gain some real benefit to our souls, by the injuries and offenses that are done to us: for even these are made to work together for good to them that love God. This is a holy and a happy way of…resisting evil. It is an ill weed indeed out of which the spiritual bee cannot extract something profitable…

So make like a bee. Exert to extract something good, something sweet. The effort itself might be a balm.

Susanne and me, just after the spicy-sweet sample

The Sweetness

Kudos before I close to my dear friend Susanne for introducing me to bee balm. If it wasn’t for her Swiss, herbalist-botanist flair I wouldn’t have even glanced at that plant in our meadow with the bumblebee buzzing round.

But as we ambled through the garden last Saturday, she pointed, “These are good to eat.” Then Susanne plucked a pink blossom and we savored the spicy-sweet treat. But Susanne had another secret up her sleeve.

Then she unveiled a Mason jar full of elegant amber—a bee balm infused simple syrup. A splash at the bottom of the glass mixed with seltzer fizz for joy on a hot July afternoon.

Exertion, elegance, meekness, sweetness. Fresh joy. Good.

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:19

We know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3b-5, The Message

He Wept & He Slept: Do You Take Discipline Like David?

Woman with head down being disciplined

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

Psalm 3:3

What do you know about David? I mean, beyond slaying Goliath and sleeping with Bathsheba?

Did you know that God said (Acts 13:2), “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart“?

Why was David a Man after God’s Heart?

Why did David receive such an honor? What was it about David that would have God give him such high praise?

I don’t know all the reasons why. But I think they include the way he worshiped with his whole heart (Psalm 86:12), fearlessly fought for God’s glory (1 Samuel 17:45), and persistently sought the LORD’s face (2 Samuel 21:1).

But I think there’s another reason.

David was God’s man because David took God’s discipline with meekness. Whether it came directly from the hand of a holy God or through the second cause of a sinful man, David received it as from a loving God who intended his good. He did not “regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose heart when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5b).

In other words, he neither blew it off nor withered into a self-pitying heap.

What Was It About David?

David knew that the presence of consequences does not mean the absence of God’s love. Centuries before God breathed it out, David knew the truth of Hebrews 12:6, that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves.”

Which is probably why he could say, Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.

David was used to God’s hand. He was a tamed horse, easily steered, not a foolish mule or a bucking bronco. The Latin word for meekness is mansuetus. It means tame, a compound of the words that mean “used to” and “hand.”

David was a man after God’s heart because he was used to God’s hand.

If meekness is key to delighting God’s heart, then how can we grow more meek?

Curses And Stones

Well. It turns out meekness grows when we are provoked. Like when Shimei hurled curses and stones.

Shimei was a pain in King David’s neck. He was a distant relative of King Saul, and a bitter provocateur. Now, decades after Saul’s death, he still resents David’s kingship. Shimei is not afraid to kick a man— even a king—when he’s down.

Here’s the scene: King David is running for his life, fleeing a hostile takeover by his usurper son Absalom. He and his loyal followers are just outside the city when they hear Shimei heckling, “Get out, get out, you worthless man. The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul… you are caught in your own evil” (2 Samuel 16:8).

To which Abishai, a loyal, right hand man asks, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”

A less meek, wounded dog would have.

But David didn’t.

Leave Him Alone

He didn’t let Abishai take revenge. Even though it was well within his power to avenge Shimei, he did not. Instead, I think he realized that God might be speaking to him through this cursing critic.

Here’s David’s reply,

Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”

And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust.

2 Samuel 16:11-13

He that is down fears no fall, John Bunyan wrote. The king is down, running from his rebel son while Shimei goes alongside, hurling curses and stones.

But David calls off Abishai. He doesn’t defend himself, but leaves vengeance to God.

He lets Shimei speak.

3 Reasons David Let Shimei Speak

Bible teacher David Guzik offers three reasons why David let Shimei curse. He doesn’t use the word meek, but do you hear it?

David let Shimei speak because:

1. He saw the hand of God in every circumstance (The LORD has said to him). He knew that God was more than able to shut Shimei up; David didn’t need to give the order.

2. He put the “Shimei problem” in perspective. (See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite?) David knew that his real problem was Absalom not Shimei, and he did not lose this perspective.

3.  He knew that God’s hand was on the future as well as the present. (It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day) David knew that God would take care of the future.

But that doesn’t mean David didn’t grieve.

David Wept

In 2 Samuel 15 we read, David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.

Forgiveness does not mean consequence-free.

In a probing message on David and Absalom, Paul Tripp explains why the king wept.

This is a monarchy—in order for Absalom to take the throne, David must die. David weeps for the people he loves, people he can no longer lead.

But there is another reason for David’s weeping…When Nathan confronted David with the sin of adultery and murder, he predicted that evil would rise from the house of David against him—as a direct result of David’s sin. He is not just mourning his son. He is mourning the consequences of his sin.

The man after God’s own heart experienced God’s forgiveness (Psalm 32:1). But he still mourned the consequences of his sin. David’s sin with Bathsheba brought consequences on himself, his family and his kingdom.

So he wept.

But godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. We do well to weep over our sin

So David wept.

And David Slept

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

That’s what Psalm 3 verse 5 says. David wrote that. But do you know when?

The superscript over the third Psalm reads, “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.”

David wrote that when he had every reason not to sleep. In How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Kevin DeYoung, explains,

When David wrote “How many are my foes!” (Psalm 3:1), he is not just waxing poetic. There were literally thousands of people risen against him. David had massive, life-threatening, family-disintegrating, career-shattering problems.

And yet, David slept.

There was an army trying to kill him. His own son hated him to death. His family had turned against him. Yet God was a shield about him, his glory, and the lifter of his head.

So David slept.

Do you take discipline like David?

In the face of discipline, David did what maturing children of God do. It’s explained Hebrews 12:5, “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose heart when you are corrected by him.” The meek avoid both extremes.

David didn’t take God’s discipline lightly. He didn’t “blow it off” as if his sin was no big deal. He wept.

But he also didn’t crumble into a heap. David did what the meek do when they’re disciplined: He confessed his sin and trusted God’s love. Then he slept.

He wept and then he slept.

At the moment we kiss the rod of his discipline meekness is being formed in us. We are growing into men and women after God’s heart.

But David’s is a tough act to follow.

I Hang My Head

A friend cared enough to confront me about some unkind words I spoke to her recently. I listened to her and agreed.

Guilty as charged.

But I hung my head. I was a puppy cowering beside her on the bench, my tail between my legs. My friend called me on that too.

Why are you sitting like that, with your head down?

I’m a complex case and I know it. But a big part of the answer was the obvious one.

I guess I still don’t like to be corrected.

It’s part of the “all or nothing” syndrome. Does it challenge you too?

It rears its head in relationships this way: When I realize I’ve hurt someone, I’m tempted to disengage and walk away. That’s the “nothing.” But the “all” would have me go hyper-verbal, defending my cause and explaining why her thin skin is the problem.

But that’s not what David did. All-or-nothing is not how the man after God’s own heart took discipline.

What about you?

Like great David’s Greater Son, David entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). He didn’t face off with Shimei. He accepted hard words because he trusted that God would right wrongs.

When you face discipline, even from the mouth of a sinful man, will you let the LORD be the shield about you, your glory and the lifter of your head

What about you? Are you moving toward David’s wept-then-slept response? Do you graciously accept God’s discipline while trusting in His love?

The Lifter Of My Head

My friend Jen told me a story about her four-year old. Grace did something very naughty one morning. She made a mural on the wall with Jen’s Sharpies.

So they had a talk. Then Jen sent Grace to her room.

When lunchtime came, Grace slunk in, chin down, eyes glued to the floor.

But Jen loves Grace. That’s why she disciplined her and why she knelt beside her and stroked her tear-smeared cheeks.

Then Jen did what God does. She lifted up her child’s head.

And Grace did what meek ones do. She melted in her mama’s hug.

Let us pray that we may kiss the rod and bless the hand that holds it.

Let us pray unto God that we may see His hand in every affliction and say, as David does, “Oh, Lord, Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me!”

Thomas Watson

Hey, Jealousy: You Can’t Have Me

eyes of jealousy

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
Proverbs 27:4

Hey, Jealousy

Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.

By this measure, Oscar Wilde’s measure, my nature is not very fine. I get jealous. Sometimes—when a friend shares a joy I wish was mine— I fake a smile. Mine is still a sin-twinged nature.

My daily reading today were 1 Samuel 18 and Acts 13. They got me thinking on jealousy. When David returned from striking down Goliath and the women came out singing, “Saul has slain his thousands; David has slain his ten thousands” Saul was very angry and greatly displeased (1 Samuel 18:7-8).

The word jealousy isn’t there but it’s there. So much, in fact, that King Saul repeatedly, ruthlessly sought to kill David. He nearly speared him to the wall in his jealous rage.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

James 3:16

But in Acts 13:45 the word JEALOUSY is used: “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.”

Jealousy messes with our minds. It makes us assume the worst of others and to doubt God. And maybe it’s equally a sign of a messed-up mind. A mind that thinks it deserves what God has not given so much that it would hurt the one who has what it desperately wants.

Not A Jealous Bone

But, the good news is that if we are in Christ we are not slaves to sin, but to righteousness. Jealousy knocks at our door but we must master it. More good news, with the Spirit’s power, we can.

The Bible has some great examples of meek, contented souls. Like Jonathan, Saul’s son, the would-be-heir of the Israel’s throne who loved David as his own soul and helped to save his life (1 Samuel 18:3-4).

And in Acts 13:43, we read that there were “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism who followed Paul and Barnabas,” urged “to continue in the grace of God.”

Not a jealous bone in Jonathan and those many Jews. Theirs was such grace, such faith that God is good. Counting His blessings crushes my jealous bones.

So dear God, increase my faith. Help me put on the Lord Jesus Christ so jealousy won’t have me.

Let us behave properly as in the day […] not in strife and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:13-14

Afterward: Yes, you are absolutely right. Our God, our righteous, holy God is a jealous God. Our jealousy reveals two things-two hopeful things:

Through jealousy, God shows us two things. First, he shows us himself. He is a jealous God (he even says “my name is Jealous” Exodus 34:14). It is part of his character as the covenanting God to take on the pain and hurt of experiencing his bride’s unfaithfulness (Hosea 4:13–14). Through our jealousy, we experience a communicable divine emotion (Deuteronomy 32:21).

Second, he shows us ourselves. Through jealousy, the deepest desires of our hearts are elicited and amplified (Genesis 22:12Psalm 66:18–20). The fire burns away the distractions of life’s details to show us the things we treasure. This process of internal emotional suffering — of jealousy most pointedly — can help clarify and bring to the surface all that we would otherwise have kept hidden from God and even from ourselves.

Paul Maxwell, Hey, Jealousy

If: What Do You Know of Calvary Love?

gong, without love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

From Subtle Love of Softening Things…Deliver Me

I “met” Amy Carmichael in my teens one summer afternoon in a cramped trailer home that housed a Christian library I so loved. Amy wasn’t soft. Read her poems—like Make Me Your Fuel, Flame of God— and you’ll see it.

As a missionary serving woman and children in India she didn’t cow to the elite who wanted their temple slaves back. Nor did Amy pull no her punches when it came to teaching converts to follow Christ.

Amy wasn’t soft, but she was loving. And not soft-pedal-the-truth loving, but holding-out-truth-in-love loving. I ran into her poem IF, last week, in my Bread And Wine reading for Lent. And one of my JoyPrO goals is to share with you what strengthens me.

Amy’s “If’s” do. But her if’s are not meant to be read one after another. In her introduction to the book simply titled, “If,” Amy Carmichael writes,

Perhaps only one “If” will have the needed word.

But if one does, I say, then run with the one. Feel the conviction, let Christ’s love control you.

And if you’re like me and 21 “ifs” ring true, well then, back to the cross. He came, He died, He rose for these.

If

If I have not compassion on my fellow)servant even as my Lord had
pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak
in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s
what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like
that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight
another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If, in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and
slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot bear to be like the father who did not soften the rigors of
the far country; if, in this sense, I refuse to allow the law of God (the
way of transgressors is hard) to take effect, because of the distress it
causes me to see that law in operation, then I know nothing of Calvary
love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed
me; if I say, “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and
allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my
suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if
I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully
formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot keep silence over a disappointing soul (unless for the sake of
that soul’s good or for the good of others it be necessary to speak),
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of
spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then
I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one
concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to
lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the
other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is
no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without
dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things
but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier
to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and
self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself; if I
am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,”
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my
threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works
in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth);
if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend “the benefit of the doubt,” but put the worst
construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool
unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.*
*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter
water however suddenly jolted.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not,
forgetting that my Sinless Saviour trod this path to the end, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me,
unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would
condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I say, “Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,” as though the God who
twice day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could
not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I
shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of
discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I become entangled in any “inordinate affection”; if things or places
or people hold me back from obedience to my Lord, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If something I am asked to do for another feels burdensome; if,
yielding to an inward unwillingness, I avoid doing it, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot
rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be
loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the
right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never
crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given a moment’s room there;
if the cup of spiritual flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing
of Calvary love.

If it be not simple and a natural thing to say, “Enviest thou for my sake?
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that
others are feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw
others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself
the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my
own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and
their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that
it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and
cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows
hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

THAT WHICH I KNOW NOT, TEACH THOU ME, O LORD, MY GOD.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…

2 Corinthians 5:14-15