Friday, July 29, 2011

"A Gift Given. A Gift Received."

     I am currently sampling an online security system that backs up all my computer information, storing it offsite so that it can be retrieved if I once again experience the ignoble "blue screen of death," or some other cyber-disaster (in case you don't know, the blue screen of death is exactly what the title implies.  It's a blue screen.  Of death. Computer death, that is, or at least of all stored information).
    During my trial period, the company that sells the product informs me daily with a popup window that I should go ahead and purchase the service before the period ends.  If I do so, they'll give me the days of the trial that I didn't use.  This makes sense, except for the fact that the company doesn't know me very well.  I like the notion of freely using the product, and will do so to the very end of the trial period.  Of course, I strongly believe in responsibly paying for things, and will do so gladly at 11:59 p.m. of the last day of the company's offer.  Nevertheless, it just feels nice to be allowed to use a product freely before making my final decision to buy.
    Conversely, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ offers no trial period.  It is rather free at the beginning, and free forever thereafter. 
    "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).
     From the initial reception of justification unto our final glorification, including all experience of grace in between, God's presence and working in our lives must be appropriated in the sensibility of a gift given, and a gift received.  Indeed, when the Holy Spirit enables us to trust and obey our Heavenly Father, we give thanks for a gift given, and a gift received.  We may expend much thought, energy and sacrifice to the act of faithfulness.  We may even "give our body to be burned" for the glory of the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 13:3).  Still, we view our faithfulness not as a gift we give to God, but rather as the bestowal of grace He grants and we receive as the Spirit of Christ dwells and walks in us (II Corinthians 6:16).
    A gift given.  A gift received.  Every moment of our relationship with God in both time and eternity will grace us with the blessedness of His generosity, and the fulfillment of our Christ-enabled capacity to freely receive His abundant provision.  Faithfulness to God is the fruit of the faithfulness of God as He works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  We freely exercise our hearts to receive, and will one day be affirmed for doing so (I Corinthians 4:5).  We nevertheless give the Lord Jesus all glory for all things He does in us, and we do by Him.  It is all a gift, every moment of both time and eternity.  A gift given.  A gift received.
"By the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
(I Corinthians 15:10)

"There Is Forgiveness With Thee"

    David, declared by God as "a man after Mine own heart," nevertheless succumbed to grievous temptations of lust, fear, murder and willful blindness (Acts 13:22).
    "David sent messengers, and took Bathsheba; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her" (II Samuel 11:4).
      "And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.  And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite...David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die" (II Samuel 11:14-15).
      "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight?  Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon" (II Samuel 12:9).
    The New Testament never mentions this terrible sin and failure of David, nor does it ever negatively reference him in any manner.  He suffered difficult consequences, and lived "by the sword" as a result (II Samuel 12:10).  Israel's greatest king nevertheless shines forth in the New Testament, mentioned by name 59 times, and again, affirmed by God as a man who shared His thoughts, motivations, intents and values.
    In our present existence, genuine godliness does not mean sinless perfection.  Of course, no sin is ever inevitable, condoned, or without consequence, especially if, as in David's case, we do not quickly respond to the Holy Spirit's conviction.  Nor can the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ hold a light view concerning the sin that led our Savior to a cross of untold sorrow, agony, forsakenness and death.  However, we recognize, and more importantly, God recognizes that a "law of sin" remains in our fleshly humanity that always bears the potential and sometimes produces the actual in our present experience (Romans 7:23).  This is true in every believer, from the least devoted to the most sincerely devout, and will be true as long as we are on the earth.  "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).
    This consideration can easily raise questions that direct attention toward ourselves and our present experience.  The better response, at least initially, is to consider the realities it displays about our God.  How gracious must He be, to so strongly affirm the man David, who so carnally and callously disregarded Him!  How vast must be His mercy and forgiveness!  How deeply He must look within His trusting children to see hearts of love and faith, even when mind, hands and feet are waywardly veering from the path of righteousness!  And how sure He must be that the good work He has begun in us will be continued and culminated regardless of those times when our faithlessness seems to ensure that all is lost! (Romans 5:20; Micah 7:18; I Samuel 16:7; Philippians 1:6).
     If we have trusted in the Lord Jesus and been born of His Spirit, we can get up if we have fallen.  "There is forgiveness with Thee" exulted the David who so well knew the forgiveness and cleansing of the God far more gracious and merciful than even the most trusting heart can fathom (Psalm 130:4).  We might suspect that the king of Israel loved the King of Heaven all the more because He delivered him from so great a pit of moral and spiritual disaster, self imposed.  And we would be correct...
"Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."
(Luke 7:47)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prayer, 24/7

    In his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul commands that believers continue "instant in prayer" (Romans 12:12).
    Rather than viewing prayer as merely an exercise for ritualistic times and places, the New Testament calls born again Christians to view our communion with God in terms of a 24/7 readiness to respond when opportunity presents itself.  Certainly this does not preclude set times and places for prayer, so long as such seasons aren't viewed as more holy or important than prayers offered in the midst of our everyday experience.
    "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).
    The Lord Jesus Christ removes prayer from the constraints of time and space in His declaration that spirit and truth provides the environment in which genuine relationship between God and man occurs.  Anywhere, any time, any place - this is the sense and sensibility of prayer made possible to believers through the gift of the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit to our hearts.  When matters come to mind, be they blessings, challenges, the needs of others and ourselves, or the desire to express our hearts to God regarding whatever may be in our hearts, we remember that the Lord Jesus has paved a clear path to the throne of grace for "continuing instant in prayer."  "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest through the blood of Jesus... let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:19:22).
    Our Lord is with us always, to the degree that He is within us.  We need not wait - we must not wait - for place, situation or time to raise our hearts to Him.   Our spirits are His temple wherein the altar of prayer continually offers opportunity to commune with the Life of our lives.  Much was sacrificed to make this sublime gift possible.  Let us remember with much reverence and rejoicing, and most of all, let us pray.
"Pray without ceasing."
(I Thessalonians 5:17)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Unto the Clouds"

     "Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds" (Psalm 36:5).

    One might think that the more accurate imagery would be that God's faithfulness reacheth from the clouds, or from beyond the clouds.  David nevertheless speaks of our Heavenly Father's devotion to us as ascending upward, as from the earth rather than descending downward to us from Heaven.

    Certainly God is in His Heaven, but He is also in and upon His earth. 

    "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?  Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7-10).

    The first expression of faithfulness is simply showing up.  God always shows up.  He is always there, awaiting our arrival at scenes He anticipated from eternity past.  Indeed, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will never experience a moment wherein God will be absent, or need to be summoned to our side.  Our lives are rather saturated with His loving involvement, to the degree that "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  His faithfulness reaches unto the clouds because it is here with us in measureless devotion to our benefit and well being.

    We will know and experience this gift of grace to the degree we believe and expect it to be the great fact of our existence.  Faith opens the eyes of the heart to see the invisible, and to know a spiritual substance far more genuinely tangible than any outward, visible thing.  We live our lives in the environment of God's perfect faithfulness and an involvement so devoted that we look upward and cannot see its apex.  Because it "reacheth unto the clouds..."

"God is faithful."

(I Corinthians 13:10)

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Because You Love Me"

The Jackson Chronicles --Part 5

(Another episode involving our 5 year old grandson Jackson, who has a penchant for doing and saying things that direct our attention upward)

"You wrote this because you love me, didn't you?" Our grandson Jackson asked Frances this question as he looked at the journal about him his grandmother has written since he was born.

Frances has chronicled much of her life and ours in a collection of journals that, if our house caught on fire, would be the first items I would likely seek to remove for safekeeping (while also, of course, grabbing my guitar!). As many of you know, Frances is a great writer whose words flow deep from the heart, and reach deep into the heart. Along these lines, I'll provide the link below for her blog, "The Powder Room," in case you haven't visited it.

Back to Jackson. "You wrote this because you love me, didn't you?" I'm sure you know where we're headed from here.

"I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words to His Father concerning the words He had spoken to His disciples. In Jackson's terms, our Lord might have said, "Father, I said them because You love Me, and because You and I both love them." This is true of the entire Word of God. The Bible is many things, but nothing more more accurately describes it than proposing it to be a gift of love from God's heart to the heart of humanity.

To Israel in the Old Testament: "I have loved Thee with an everlasting love." To the church in the New Testament: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Jeremiah 33:3; Ephesians 2:4-7). It is no presumption whatsoever for the trusting believer to join Jackson in looking up from the Bible we hold in our hands (and in our hearts), and saying with the deepest affection, gratitude and reverence, "Father, You wrote this because You love me, didn't You?" We can be sure the answer is the same Jackson received from Frances: "Yes, I did."

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
(Ephesians 3:14; 16; 19)

The Powder Room

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Put Off... Put On"

A life of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to God involves much replacement, or in Biblical terms, much putting off and putting on.

“If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

When tempted to disbelieve and disobey our Heavenly Father, merely trying to refrain from sin does not suffice in overcoming the challenge. We must replace the initial response of our fleshly humanity with thought and consideration concerning the matter at hand - "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" - and then “put on” righteous and genuinely holy characteristics of who we are in Christ.

The Apostle Paul illustrated his teaching with an easily understood temptation.

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).

To those whose “former conversation” (manner of life) involved theft, and who still as believers may be similarly tempted, Paul commands that work and giving replace the carnality of stealing. The Apostle does not simply command the Ephesian believers to avoid the selfishness of theft, but to devote themselves to those activities that make generosity and self sacrifice possible. We put off theft by putting on work and giving. Decisive action, based on a mind renewed by Scripture, ensures that the believer’s heart engages in a positive, proactive manner that replaces works of the flesh with the characteristics of Christ.

The human heart and mind do not exist in a vacuum. Thoughts, attitudes and sensibilities move within us at all times, leading to corresponding actions. “Out of the heart are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). When we become aware of fleshly inclinations and stimulations contrary to the Word of God, our calling involves both the negative of “Through the power of Christ, I will not think, say and do that,” and the positive of “Through the power of Christ, I will think, say and do this.” All is possible because the Holy Spirit dwells within us to enable the putting off, putting on process of faith.

This dynamic way of faith applies to all temptation. Indeed, regarding the fleshly stimulations that personally affect us, seeking God's "put on" replacement goes far in enabling more consistent overcoming and obedience. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus dwells in us if we have believed, making possible the replacement of the human with the Divine...

"Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:14)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Needing Need

(a repeat from last year)

    "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ" (Philippians 4:19).
     Contextually, the meaning of Paul's statement is that God shall supply for all our needs.  This is the proper and doctrinally correct understanding of his statement.
    I find it intriguing, however, that a cursory reading of Philippians 4:19 seems to indicate that God's supply is need itself.  Again, this was likely not the Apostle or the Holy Spirit's intention, but the truth of the matter (confirmed by many other Scriptures) is that in our present existence, we actually need need.  Without necessity in its countless forms experienced during our earthly lives, we would never begin to look outside ourselves for our Lord's supply.  "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy Word" (Psalm 119:67).
    Believers often pray for God's supply to a particular need, but the need remains and God seems not to have answered.  This very well may indicate that our need is the need itself.  Paul thrice prayed for his thorn to be removed, but the Lord revealed to him that a thornless life would lead to pride and the inability to minister by the power of Christ (II Corinthians 12:7-9).  Doubtless the same is true in our lives, and as we trust God to supply for our needs, He may well do so by orchestrating challenging conditions and circumstances that keep us in a place of humility, dependence, and trust.  Yes, His supply for our needs may sometimes be need itself.
"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
(Philippians 4:12)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grace and Mercy

    "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
    Grace grants to us the lavish favor deserved by the Lord Jesus Christ because of His perfect fulfillment of God the Father's will.  Mercy withholds from us rightful judgment for our sins because our Savior bore it on our behalf.
    We need both.  We cannot independently merit God's favor because our sins disqualify us from such blessing.  We are rather graciously "accepted in the Beloved" when we trust in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).  Every "good gift and every perfect gift" we will ever receive comes to us not by our own merits, but rather by those purchased for us through the high cost of our Savior's suffering, forsakenness and death (James 1:17).  Indeed, our next breath comes to us through the price of Blood, and a long eternity will grace us over and over again with with innumerable gifts obtained for us by immeasurable suffering.
    "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10).  The Lord Jesus also made a way for mercy to surround those who trust in His atoning sacrifice.  "He that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass Him about" (Psalm 32:10).  Believers still sin, including the most devout among us (I John 1:8).  Were it not for the mercy of the Savior, our salvation could no more be maintained than it could have been obtained.  The Lord Jesus "ever liveth to make intercession for us," making possible ongoing forgiveness, cleansing and uninterrupted fellowship with our Heavenly Father despite times of unbelief and disobedience (Hebrews 7:25).  He "delighteth in mercy," and the truth of the matter is that God desires to forgive and cleanse His trusting children far more than we desire to be forgiven and cleansed (Micah 7:25).
    One day we shall be perfected in the direct presence of our Lord.  We shall not need grace and mercy in the same way it is presently required.  Nevertheless, we shall know with far greater understanding that every blessing of eternity comes to us because and only because our Savior made possible the abundant bestowal of God's goodness and the merciful avoidance of His wrath.  We shall love the Lord Jesus then even more than we do now, joining the heavenly throng that falls before Him in wonder and rapture...
"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever."
(Revelation 5:11-14)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Unlikely Garb"

    How easily we make our spiritual evaluations according to human rather than Divine standards and parameters.
    "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
    Certainly we use our minds in seeking to understand and interpret the doings of God in our lives and the lives of others.  However, we also remember Solomon's charge that we "lean not unto thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).  Appearances often deceive, especially in matters of the Spirit.  Indeed, who would have thought that a baby born in a feeding trough would herald the arrival of the Son of God into the world?  Or that a twelve year old boy would confound the learned wisdom of highly educated Jewish religious leaders?  Or that a carpenter's son would speak as did none other?  Or that a man condemned as a sinner would die not for His own crimes, but for those of all others?  Or that a sad tomb would become the scene of the triumph of the ages, and of that joy which is above every joy?  Or that its humble Occupant would be enthroned as the King of kings, with a "Name which is above every name?" (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 6:46-47; John 7:46; I John 2:2; Matthew 28:6; Philippians 2:9).
    Where is this principle of "judge not according to the appearance" presently active in your life and mine?  Probably in more ways than we suspect.  In His trusting children, the Lord Jesus Christ comes no less in unlikely garb and manner than He did in His earthly advent.  We will miss Him if we are not anticipating this enigmatic way of God in our lives, and we will miss Him sometimes even if we are expecting the unexpected.  Our Heavenly Father's way is perfect, His mind is infinite, and His heart is utterly devoted to our best interests in terms of both time and eternity.  Our calling is to trust Him, to submit ourselves to Him, and to believe that He is dynamically active in our lives whether we see and understand, or not.  He has never disappointed anyone who walks this path of faith, and He never will.
    Because of our presently limited vision, the perfection of God's way is most often seen after the fact.  Even then, we see only a small portion of the Divine significance that infuses every moment and matter of our lives.  For now, we do well to acknowledge that the appearances of our lives tell us little of all that is actually transpiring.  We "live and move and have our being" in a God so vast that the universe cannot contain Him (Acts 17:28; II Chronicles 2:6).  Our lives teem with His dynamic presence, and "righteous judgment" calls us to believe that great things and good things continually ensue in that holy dimension just beyond the limits of our vision.
"And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
(II Kings 6:15-17)

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Thou Knowest"

    Had one been a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, the news that He had been arrested and faced with possible death by execution might well have led to prayer on the Lord's behalf.
    "Heavenly Father, we ask You to deliver this good man from such an injustice.  Show the authorities that He is innocent of all charges, and expose His accusers as liars.  Protect Him, Lord, and deliver Him from these false charges, His captivity, and the horror of the cross.  Amen."
    A nobler and more well meaning prayer might have never been offered.  If such a request had been answered, however, the unintended consequence would have been the eternal damnation of every member of Adam's sinful race.
    "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour?  But for this cause came I unto this hour... His blood is the propitiation... for the sins of the whole world" (John 12:27; I John 2:2).
    How easy it is to blithely pray with barely a nod to the plainly stated Biblical declaration, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought" (Romans 8:26).  We really don't, and while it is fine to humbly ask God to do things we perceive to be required, we do even better to ask Him to work according to His perfect knowledge of that which most assuredly IS required.  "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of" (Matthew 6:8).  Indeed, by definition, prayer involves the admission of our inability to do that which only God can do, along with the recognition that our understanding of what needs to happen is limited. 
    "And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, Thou knowest" (Ezekiel 37:3).
    With God, there is always more to the picture than meets the eye.  Indeed, He may not save His Son from a Roman cross.  He may rather save us thereby, and raise the Lord Jesus from the dead.  In the same manner, our prayers for the deliverance of others and ourselves may seem unanswered as our Heavenly Father works according to "the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" rather than our dim vision (Ephesians 3:11).  Let us be grateful for such wisdom, and may "O Lord God, Thou knowest" form and inform the heart of every prayer, supplication and intercession.  We may well use fewer words as we pray, but they will likely bear more weight, fervency and efficacy as we trust both our Lord's wisdom and willingness.
"His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5). 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Grace and Peace" Part 2

    "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7).
    Grace and peace received and spiritually assimilated in us becomes the grace and peace we bestow upon others.
    We do well to often ponder how lavishly our Heavenly Father blesses us with undeserved favor and tranquil relationship with Him despite our too many and frequent failures.  The merciful attitude of His heart must become the merciful attitude of our own.  "Freely ye have received, freely give" commanded the Lord Jesus of His disciples (Matthew 10:8).  No act or attitude of obedience to this command is more important than how we view others, particularly those who have offended us, or whom we find offensive.
    The love of the Lord Jesus Christ in the hearts of born again believers is a restless thing.  It comes to us not as a still pond, but rather as a "well of water springing up into everlasting life," both for ourselves and for others (John 4:14).  We know it best not in the receiving, but in the giving - "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  Indeed, God's greatest gift of love to us is the Christ-enabled capacity of Divine love flowing in and through us to others. Determining to bear the same attitude of grace and peace toward others that God bears toward us goes far in filling our hearts for the purpose of overflow to our world...
"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:36).

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Grace and Peace" Part 1

    "Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7).
    Of the thirteen New Testament epistles we know to have been written by the Apostle Paul, all contain some form of the above salutation of grace and peace (several also include mercy in the bestowal of Divine favor).  In this regard, recall that Paul wrote to Christians of varying degrees of spiritual devotion and practice, who received either high commendation (the Romans), or severe disapprobation (the Corinthians).
    Wherever believers may be along the path of righteousness, whether we are walking faithfully and obediently, or failingly and waywardly, the Father and the Son desire that grace and peace should be our portion, as administered by the Holy Spirit.  Certainly God may be pleased or displeased by the nature of our response to Him.  And just as certainly, faithfulness and faithlessness bear different fruits in the experience of our Lord's working in our lives.  Nevertheless we look toward Heaven in the assurance that the heart and attitude of God are "for us" as a Father eternally devoted to our benefit and well being (Romans 8:31).  Both the hand of caress and the scourge of chastening bear the Heart of love whereby believers can be sure that grace and peace await only our response of faith, repentance (if necessary) and submission in order to burst forth upon in torrential waves of God's goodness.
    Believers are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).  Our works are either accepted or rejected, depending on whether or not they originate in the leading and power of the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:9).  Growing understanding of the former leads to a far more consistently positive experience of the latter.  "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).  Grace and peace, affirmed and assimilated, produce genuine and loving desire to live a life that honors the Lord Jesus in all things...
"Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).
Tomorrow: Part 2 - Grace and peace received, grace and peace distributed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"How We Think"

    "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
    Are we thinking about the many issues of our lives in accordance with the spiritual mindedness that leads to "life and peace?"
    In our present existence, the answer is yes and no.  Certainly the devoted born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ views and ponders many matters spiritually, that is, in faithfulness to God and His Word.  The Holy Spirit works in believers to accomplish this vital component of our relationship to God, and doubtless He successfully forms in us thoughts of truth and light.  It remains true, however, that a work in progress continues throughout our earthly lifetime, particularly in the matter of how we think.  "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
    We do well to pray often about how we are thinking about the particulars of our lives.  Are we viewing God rightly?  Ourselves?  Our relationship with Him?  Our relationships with others?  Our responsibilities?  Our families?  Our possessions and finances?  Our habits?  Our free time?  The list could go on and on.  How we think about everything matters, and again, our minds inevitably contain a mixture of truth and falsehood. 
    A good prayer to consistently utter to God asks Him to confirm and enhance in us those thoughts that accord with His Spirit and truth.  We also trust Him to correct and root out thinking that originates with the world, the devil and the flesh.  King David of Israel understood this necessity of the ongoing work of God in leading us to the life and peace that flows from a mind consistently presented to our Lord for His examination.  We do well to join him...
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"There Is a Savior"

(A repeat from last year)

     "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in Heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:8-11).
    Our Heavenly Father's purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ is timeless.  It has always existed in His heart and mind, and everything He will ever do flows from His determination to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).
    Thus, before there were sinners, God purposed a salvation and Savior for all who would trust in "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).  This is the Divine order of the Gospel, namely, that we proclaim the supply of God before pointing out the need of man.  All preaching, teaching, and communication of Truth must follow this sequence, including evangelization of unbelievers and edification of God's trusting children in Christ.  We first declare who the Lord Jesus is, what He has done, is doing, and will forever do as the executor of God's eternal purpose.  In this light, the truth of our need is revealed and defined.  Just as importantly, hope precedes the sad reality of the human condition in it many forms of devilish and self destruction. 
     "There is a Savior. This is who He is. You are a sinner who can be saved from condemnation and mastery of sin."  This is the Divine sequence of our message to the unbeliever.  Or to the believer, "There is a Savior.  This is who He is.  You are a saint in need of greater knowledge of your Savior, and He is present with and within you to effect this growth into His spiritual and moral image."  It matters not the person, or the condition of the person.  We begin with "the beginning," and with the One who is "before all things" (Revelation 1:8; Colossians 1:17).  Failure to follow the sequence is un-biblical, and inadvertently causes our message to be more humanistic than Divine.
   "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  Discovery of our Lord's perfect person and work reveals by contrast the imperfection of our own person and work.  The light of His glory reveals the light of our utter need.  Nothing else fully unveils the truth, and nothing else effects both the hope and conviction that leads the heart to the Lord Jesus.  Surely we are to tell sinners they are sinners, and Biblically define their waywardness.  Surely we are to tell wayward saints they are failing to honor their Lord, and Biblically define their unfaithfulness.  However, before the indictment comes the promise of pardon, redemption, and the power of the Lord Jesus to save from sin.  There is a Savior.  This is who He is, this is what He has done, is doing, and will do forevermore.  Our communication of Truth either begins here, or it does not authentically and effectually begin at all.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."
(Hebrews 12:2)
"Before they call, I will answer."
(Isaiah 65:24)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Determined or Allowed"

     All that happens in the life of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is either determined or allowed by God, and all is coordinated and fit together according to His perfect foreknowledge.

    "God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).

    "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

    By the time life happens to us, God has already happened to it.  That is, He directly orders and orchestrates the good, righteous and holy things of His perfect will.  Or, in His infinite wisdom, our Heavenly Father knows how to adjust and apply all other things for our ultimate benefit and the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.  I would not suggest trying to figure out how He possibly does this.  Perfect foreknowledge and infinite wisdom - for which we have no frame of reference - are required for this blessed working in our lives.  It is enough that we know and believe such Truth to be true, and that we often affirm it in our hearts and among each other.

    Few teachings of Scripture more assure our hearts, particularly in times of trouble, pain and difficulty.  We live anticipated lives, as it were.  The One to whom we have entrusted both time and eternity knows all that will ever come our way.  Before ever we were born and born again, He planned a course of action that will fit all things together for the purpose of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).  Nothing catches our Lord by surprise, and nothing can hinder His determination and promise: "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

    Much will happen in our lives that will furrow our brow, accelerate our heart rate, bewilder our minds, and foment questions of unrest and concern.  We confront such temptations by gazing into Heaven and seeing no furrowed brow, no accelerated heart rate, no bewildered mind, and no questions whatsoever.  Indeed, as long as God is untroubled, we are safe.  As long as His Word is true, we are safe.  As long as He will "work all things together for good," we are safe.  And as long as nothing comes to us apart from His determination or allowance, we are safe.  This is peace, and there is no other.

"His understanding is infinite."

(Psalm 147:5)

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Nothing of Himself"

    As the Son of God and the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ possessed the innate and infinite power of the Divine.
    As the son of man, and the "second man," the Lord Jesus chose throughout His earthly lifetime to live not by His own abilities, but by those of of Another (I Corinthians 15:47).
    "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do... I can of Mine own self do nothing... The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works... I live by the Father" (John 5:19; 30; 14:10; 6:57).
    In order to deliver humanity from its insanity of prideful self delusion, the Savior lived a lifetime of humble determination to trust and submit to His Father.  We have no frame of reference for such condescension.  What sacrifices are involved in the heart and mind of the possessor of infinite power who yields Himself to a state of existence wherein He must receive "life and breath and all things?" (Acts 17:25).  We cannot know, even as the Apostle Paul declared, "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  We can only surmise that the challenge must have been profound, such as the wilderness temptation wherein Satan tempted the Lord Jesus to use His innate power rather than trust and submit unto the Father (Matthew 4:1-11).
     Some have defined meekness as "power under control and restraint."  This surely depicts the Lord Jesus - "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29).  The Creator of a universe more vast and complex than we can imagine took upon Himself a humility just as imponderable.  For the proud He became the Humble in order to redeem us unto the proper understanding of both God and ourselves.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus reveals to us God as He is, and man as he should be.  The latter truth drives us to our faces, first in grateful adoration for so wonderful a Savior, and then in the proper posture of heart whereby we also declare, "I can of mine own self do nothing... He doeth the works... I live through Him."
"LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am."
(Psalm 39:4)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord."
(James 4:10)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The "Whys?" of God

    "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8).
    Just as the ways of God and humanity conflict, so do the "Whys?"  Our Lord's reasoning proceeds from perfect wisdom, knowledge, foreknowledge, and the character that always perfectly applies the awareness of all details and consequences of actions.  Conversely, human reasoning is based upon limited insight, particularly in matters of God's working in our lives.  He doesn't explain Himself, except in the most general Biblical terms, and He never needs to apologize because "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). 
    Still, even the most ardent and devoted believers are often tempted to wonder and ask, "Why?"  As times passes and life unfolds, our Heavenly Father's determinations and allowances may begin to make at least some sense.  But sometimes they don't, and the fact of the matter is that we will leave this present world with unanswered questions.   "Oh God, why?" (Psalm 74:1).
    The truth of the matter is that when we need explanations, the Lord provides them.  When we don't He doesn't.  The latter path is hard, but we will one day discover it led to the greatest blessing in our lives.  It led us to the opportunity for faith in the night that doesn't exist in the light of a bright noonday sun.  When there is no answer for why our Father has determined or allowed some challenge, loss, heartache or heartbreak, we find ourselves graced with the possibility of trusting His heart when we cannot understand His hand.  We find ourselves desperately needing to relate to Him in the personal and living relationship that alone satisfies both His heart and ours.  And we find ourselves blessed with a particularly beautiful way of honoring the Lord Jesus Christ by trusting Him when all outward evidences beckon us to do otherwise.  "But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them" (Psalm 22:3-4).
     We shall not pass this way again.  Heaven awaits believers, that bright and splendid place where our understanding will be glorified, and our challenges eliminated (I Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 21:4).  Thus, our only opportunity to trust God with no answers to "Why?" exists now, in this present life.  How we must bless His heart when we look to Him with tears of bewilderment and pain streaming down our faces, but with utterances of faith proceeding from our hearts, and borne upon our lips.  And how it declares the greatness and goodness of the Lord Jesus that His presence can enable such confidence.  Yes, the ways and "Whys?" of God are often beyond our understanding.  But His faithfulness is not beyond our Christ-enabled capacity to trust the Father's heart...
"Moses... endured, as seeing Him who is invisible."
(Hebrews 11:24; 27)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"We Will Think of You"

    "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
    The staying of our minds upon God does not mean that we must consciously and directly think about Him at all times.  We could not fulfill our responsibilities in a Christ-glorifying manner if this were the case.  We would not, for example, want to enter a tall building designed by a Christian engineer who gives less than full attention to his planning because he attempts to think about God while doing his calculations.  "Whatsoever ye do... do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).
    Our calling rather involves the taking of those opportunities we do have to prayerfully fix our minds upon the Lord Jesus and His Truth.  There are many, and we do well to remember that God gave to us the amazing gift of our brains for the primary reason that we might think of and relate to Him.  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy... mind" (Matthew 22:37).  No other pondering approaches the blessedness we find when considering the Bible's revelation of the being, nature, character, purposes and ways of our Creator and Redeemer. 
    Such consideration can take place in quiet moments with an open copy of the Scriptures before us.  Or we may remember, believe and affirm the Word of God in times of temptation and challenge.  Sharing with fellow believers and bearing witness to others also keeps our Lord fresh in our minds.  Our prayers also offer much opportunity to think of God, not only in the sense that we are communicating with Him, but doing so in the context of His revealed Biblical truth.  Thanksgiving and praise direct our minds Heavenward as we gratefully remember our Lord's wondrous works on our behalf.  Viewing the handiwork of God in creation fills our minds with Him because "the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Romans 1:20).  And finally, there are times when we bless both the heart of God and our own when we look to Him when we could be looking in many other directions.
    "Heavenly Father, in this moment, we will think of You.  We will consider what Your Word declares of Your glorious Person and works.  We will ponder with awe and much gratitude the grace and mercy You have shown us throughout our lifetime, and in this present hour.  We will consider the enormity of the Sacrifice that made such goodness possible.  We will remember how often Your face shines through the faces of people, and how We so blessedly hear Your voice in their voices.  We will realize anew and afresh that You are with and within us, as the Lord Jesus promised.  We will bow our heart and head in the remembrance that an eternity of such blessedness awaits, and we will rejoice in anticipation.  Most of all, we will think of Your love, and that You are love.  And we will be amazed as we seek to join the Psalmist in his response of devotion and faith...
"I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!"
(Psalm 18:1)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Das Vadanya!"

    The following is a repeat from a short while ago.  I'm sending it again so soon because the friend referenced, Truett Dodd, went to be with our Lord yesterday.  I visited Truett with several friends this past Sunday.  He was very weak and tired, but alert, and did not seem to be in pain.  We had a very good visit, and I was struck by two things that I think really exemplify Truett.  First, he said, "I'm ready to see Heaven."  Surely he was, and surely he rejoices even now in the most beautiful vision of Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
    I was also blessed by Truett's humor, which clearly remained intact until his last earthly days.  Frances was unable to come with us to see Truett this past Sunday because of her work schedule.  As we were leaving, I leaned over Truett, kissed him on the forehead and told him, "This is from Frances because she couldn't come."  Then I added, "Of course, coming from me, that wasn't as good as a kiss from her."  He looked up at me, smiled, and said, "You're right.  It wasn't!"
    I'm glad I knew Truett Dodd in this lifetime.  I wouldn't have wanted to have lived without having known him.  I'm gladder still that I will know him in the next, where farewells and goodbye kisses will be a thing of the past.  Bon voyage, Truett.  Or, as you would say, "Das Vadanya!"
Scenes of Prayer
    I have a dear friend and brother in Christ named Truett Dodd.  Truett is 82, and has been a missionary to Russia (mostly in Siberia) for the last 18 years.  Yes, at an age when many people are considering retirement, Truett responded to the Lord's call to journey to Russia 44 times for 3-6 month visits, many during brutally cold Siberian winters when the thermometer often drops to 30-40 below zero.  He's distributed tens of thousands of Bibles and hundreds of thousands of tracts.  He's preached the Gospel in schools, hospitals, streets and wherever a precious Russian heart would listen to him say, "Jesus loves you and I love you."  He's built churches, supported pastors, and introduced the Russian people to grits (for which they'll be forever thankful, I'm sure!).
    Last year Truett was diagnosed with both serious cancer and heart disease.  He's been through radiation treatments and chemotherapy, and on Monday entered a local hospital with internal bleeding.  When I heard the news, I went to the hospital to see Truett.  As I entered his room, I realized someone was with him.  The gentleman turned out to be Truett's son Phillip, who was holding his dad's hand and praying for him.  Need I say more?  A son praying for his father.  A beautiful scene of prayer.
    While I was with Truett on Monday night, he asked that I pray for the Lord to give him sleep.  I contacted a number of people who know and love Truett to inform them of his request.  When I returned to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon to see Truett, I found him sleeping like a baby.  Another beautiful scene.  Of prayer answered.
    I went to see Truett again yesterday.  I was greeted once again with another moment to always remember.  I entered his hospital room and found Truett lying in his bed, his hands folded, his chin on his chest, and his heart praying, softly, but loud enough that I could hear.  "Lord, I need You right now.  I need You to help me and strengthen me.  Please don't let me be lazy."  Truett, of course, didn't know that I was there and listening, and I felt like I had intruded on a sacred moment between the Lord and his trusting child.  However, I didn't and I don't feel badly about being blessed with another scene.  A sacred scene of prayer.
    "Don't let me be lazy."  I think I'm going to add that request to my personal prayer repertoire.  Indeed, if an 82 year old man, lying in a hospital bed because of cancer, heart disease and internal bleeding, is still so about the business of the Lord's work that his request involves not healing, but help to fulfill his calling, well, need I say more?  "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" said the Lord Jesus (John 5:17).  The Spirit of that same Christ dwells in my brother Truett, and He's clearly saying the same thing in Truett's heart. 
    I know you'll join me in praying for Truett.  And to be honest with you, I really don't think we have to pray that Truett won't be lazy.  I think he and the Lord have that request covered.  Oh yes, I didn't mention that after I greeted Truett yesterday, he immediately began to tell me that he felt the Lord had given him a way to get even more Bibles and tracts into the hands of the Russian people.  So, pray with me that God will honor our brother's passion to continue his holy calling.  I suspect that as we all pray for Brother Truett, we'll each have our own wonderful scene of prayer.
"And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
(Romans 10:15)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Serving the Servant"

    Angels were created before human beings, and are "greater in power and might" (Job 38:6-7; II Peter 2:11).  Nevertheless, the Bible declares them to be "ministering servants... for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).
     One wonders if this might be a reason that some angels, including Lucifer, rebelled against God.  Might they have been informed that a new race of beings in God's own image would be created by the Lord, a race with lesser capacity and strength, but whom angels would serve?  We do not know, but we can be sure that fallen angels seek not to serve the "heirs of salvation," but rather to hinder our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  "My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:10-12).
     In God's economy, strength and authority (including His own), are used to serve rather than dominate.  "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant... The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 23:11; 20:28).  Believers serve a Lord who Himself bears the heart of a servant.  We serve a Servant, as it were.  The Lord Jesus is infinitely greater than we are, and He is certainly the Master to whom we bow in humility and submission.  However, had He not first served by coming "not to be ministered unto, but to minister," we would never have known or had a relationship with Him.  He had to be our Lamb before He could be our Lord, and the heart of a servant still beats in His glorious chest.
    "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (Revelation 5:5-6).
    We shall forever be awed by our Lord's greatness and majesty.  And we shall forever be awed by His lowliness of heart and humility.  Both perspectives of God are required in order to know Him rightly.  The Lord Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb, and those who know Him well are awed by His greatness, and amazed by His lowliness.  Faithful angels reflect this dual nature of God, serving those who are lesser than themselves.  Faithful humans do the same, heeding the Apostle Paul's command to "esteem others as better than ourselves" (Philippians 2:3).   Few truths about our Lord and ourselves more sanctify our hearts unto the holiness whereby we know God as He is, and subsequently live as the servants of the great Servant.
"Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
(Matthew 11:29)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Declaration of Dependence

    The liberty affirmed in America's Declaration of Independence and Constitution grants believers the political freedom to openly and without fear of censure join the Apostle Paul in his declaration of dependence...
    "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
    God created us, He sustains us, He redeemed us (if we have believed), and He enables all true devotion to Himself (Psalm 100:3; 25:5; Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 4:19).  Trusting Him with all our hearts therefore paves the only safe and sane path upon which to navigate the course of our lives, and the course of this moment.  Declaring our dependence both within our hearts and in the confession of Christ brings true liberty, the liberty of choosing which master we will serve (Joshua 24:15).  Every human being worships and serves somebody or something.  Believers in the Lord Jesus kneel before the only Lord to whom servitude brings freedom and the assurance of perpetual peace of heart and well being of spirit.  "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
     Americans do well to be grateful for the Declaration of Independence, published 235 years ago today.  Believers do well to be grateful for the Scriptures' declaration of dependence, published nearly 2,000 years ago after having been written with our Savior's blood.  We live as citizens of a free nation because of the former.  We live as sons and daughters of God because of the latter.  Doubly blessed, we enjoy for a lifetime the political liberty of our nation, and for a lifetime and eternity the spiritual liberty of our Master, the Lord Jesus.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
(II Corinthians 3:17)
"I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts."
(Psalm 119:45)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

No Gimmicks

     There are no "secrets," no "keys," and no "ultimate answers" concerning the living of a consistent and increasingly godly life in a fallen world.
      "But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 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... Therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (I Timothy 6:11-12; II Timothy 2:3).
    Indeed, the closest thing to a secret, key or answer is the recognition that there are no such easy spiritual fixes in our relationship with God.  There is rather the spirit and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our calling to trust and submit ourselves to Him.  There is also the understanding that our devotion to the Lord Jesus will be challenged until our dying breath by spiritual enemies whose nefarious workings demand that we "fight the good fight of faith."  Religious gimmickry serves no effective purpose against such foes, but more importantly, it serves no purpose in our calling to relate to a real God concerning the real issues of life in a continually challenging and fallen world.
    Our flesh longs for some new insight or method that will finally cause all our spiritual gears, as it were, to finally and forever align.  That blessed day will come, but it will not be in this lifetime.  For now, we will awaken each and every day on a spiritual battlefield in which we fight from the victory of the risen Christ, but we fight nevertheless.  As confessed the Apostle Paul, we will be "troubled... perplexed... persecuted... cast down" (II Corinthians 4:8-9).  Through Christ, we can overcome such challenges, as did Paul, but it will not be inevitable that we do so.  Nor will we finally find an ultimate weapon whereby we blithely smile and easily overcome the world, the devil and the flesh.  Instead, we will find ourselves again and again needing to seek fresh guidance and enabling from "the Captain of our salvation" (Hebrews 2:10).  He has called and enabled us to the blessed experience of a living relationship with Himself.  Supposed secrets, keys and answers don't apply in such a realm of personal reality lived with the great Person of reality.
    This truth comes hard for young believers, or for those misled by spiritual influences who offer false dreams and hopes.  It comes blessedly, however, for those who realize that anything that once again drives us to our faces in desperate acknowledge of our need is a necessary component in our present existence.  Thereby are we prepared to seek and access the heart of God, and the dynamic involvement of His hand on our behalf.  Gimmicks have no place in this holy place where a faithful Father and trusting children meet in loving and living relationship and reality. 
"And when they were come to him (Paul), he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations."
(Acts 20:18-19)

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Giving and Receiving"

     We generally receive what we give in our relationships with others.  There are notable exceptions, of course, and we are always prepared for times when our good is rewarded with evil.  The prevailing course of our lives nevertheless reveals the Divine principle of "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38).

    This truth greatly challenges our natural understanding and inclinations, particularly when we are dissatisfied with how people are relating to us.  The world, the devil and the flesh tempt us to focus on the failures, slights and grievances of others.  We may ignore the possibility that we are receiving, in negative terms, what we have given (or have not given).  This is especially true in the very close bonds of family and friendship wherein frequent contact and association provide much opportunity to offend and be offended.  If our primary consideration involves what we are receiving rather than what we are giving, the problem may well lie with us.

    "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent" (Philippians 1:9-10).

    As the Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians, we do well to personally seek God's leading and enabling whereby we wisely abound in His love toward others.  The most important aspect of such guidance will redirect our attention from how others relate to us toward how we relate to them.  Indeed, even in times where we are wrongly treated, the primary issue for us is our own response.  Are our attitudes and actions the reaction to our offender, or to the Holy Spirit?  We are greatly tempted by the former.  Greater still is the moving and power of the indwelling Christ in believers to enable responses that reflect His character rather than our natural fleshly inclinations to dwell on the offences of others (I John 4:4).

    Again, we generally get what we give in our relationships with others.  There are few greater Scriptural challenges, and few greater Scriptures assurances of blessing.  We must consistently trust and submit ourselves to God in order to know what we are to give, and also to know how to respond to what we receive in times of both peace and conflict.  Such truth keeps our hearts in peace because it maintains our primary focus on the Lord Jesus rather than upon ourselves and others.

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."

(Matthew 5:43-45)