Monday, December 31, 2012

"Passing Prayers"

    I suspect that when we get to Heaven, people will introduce themselves to us whom we never knew upon the earth.  "I want to thank you for that prayer you prayed for me on December 31, 2012," they'll say with a grateful heart and smile.  "The Lord did wonderful things in my life and the life of my family in response to your intercession."

    In all honesty (and we will be completely honest in Heaven!), we'll have to admit, "Dear Sister, it's kind of you to say that, but I must confess that I didn't know you during our earthly lifetime.  You must be mistaking me for someone else."  Our fellow believer will persist, however.  "No, it was you," she'll insist.  "You passed by me in a store on that day, and the Holy Spirit caused something about me to get your attention.  And you responded.  You prayed, Lord, I don't know that person or anything about them.  But You know all.  I therefore ask You to work in their heart and life according to Your glory and their need."  Our sister will conclude, "Our Heavenly Father answered that prayer, and it will take me awhile, a long while, to tell you how much He did in and through my life because of your request.  Thankfully, we have a long while, so here's what happened..."

     The most wonderful thing about such "passing prayers," offered briefly and seemingly inconsequentially, is that the Lord so obviously receives all the glory for them.  This is true of all genuine prayer, of course, but those intercessions offered with little knowledge and few words will likely be the ones through which His greatest work is done.  Thereby, "the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11).  The pray-er will be blessed in his praying, the pray-ee will be blessed in the answer, and together both will fall before their Heavenly Father to praise Him for both the gift of prayer and the gift of answered prayer.

    The Lord Jesus warned that "long prayers" can involve little more than the pretentious attempt to garner attention (Mark 12:40).  Short prayers, however, frequently offered in the knowledge that, by definition, the very act of praying  comprises our admission of weakness in both knowledge and capacity, may well lead to the most powerful Divine response.  Only God sees into the heart of people, wherein "the issues of life" truly exist (Proverbs 4:23).  He alone knows our true need, and the simple requests that acknowledge and display our awareness thereof may result in our finest "hour" of intercession.

    Certainly, long seasons of genuine prayer happen in our lives.  We give thanks for them.  However, seemingly passing prayers, inspired and enabled by the Holy Spirit along the byways of life, accomplish much for the glory of God and the blessing of others.  Let us expect that in this day, He will lead accordingly, foreshadowing another day, in another time and another place, when some brother or sister will approach us on a glimmering street of gold.  "I want to thank you for that prayer you prayed for me on December 31, 2012..."

"Pray without ceasing."
(I Thessalonians 5:17)

Friday, December 28, 2012


    Illness often limits or even eliminates our appetite.  Frances currently has the flu, and has eaten very little in the last two days. 

Thanks for the prayers I know you'll pray for her.  She's feeling a little better, and I just told her, "We've got to get some food in you today."   

The same truth applies spiritually.  During times of wandering from our Lord, we have little appetite to partake of Him.  We don't read the Scriptures, or if we do, our heart doesn't seem to be in it.  We pray less, if at all, and the many opportunities life affords to consciously approach our Heavenly Father pass by with little notice.  Our fellowship with other believers wanes, along with the  heartfelt determination to do the will of God that characterizes the rich experience of Him made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ.     We need "medicine" in such times.  The prescription written by Frances's doctor yesterday has already helped her, but not as quickly as that which believers experience when approaching our Great Physician.    

"I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.  I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5).    

The God who "delighteth in mercy" loves to forgive, cleanse and restore His children in times of unbelief and disobedience (Micah7:18).  The very act of reminding us that the Lord Jesus suffered and died to establish relationship between God and ourselves begins our Heavenly Father's renewing of our appetite for the Bread of life.  No wandering Christian can seriously ponder the sacrifice of our Lord without desiring to partake of His merciful restoration, and then to feast upon His sustenance by walking closely with Him thereafter.  "When I said, My foot slippeth, Thy mercy, o Lord, held me up" (Psalm 94:18).   

Appetite tells us much both physically and spiritually.  Do we want to eat?  Unless we are "ill," yes we do.  The truth applies to both realms, and even more to the spiritual than the physical.  Lack of hunger for the Scriptures, communion with our Father, the fellowship of other believers, and a life of faithful Christ-honoring obedience tells us much about the most important aspect of our lives.  Thankfully, our Physician offers His cure of grace, truth and mercy when we are sick.  His Spirit beckons us to partake in such times so that our normal appetite and partaking may continue without interruption.   May we avail ourselves of His prescription when necessary, rejoicing that once again we can say, "I am hungry!"

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(Matthew 5:6)


Very early in my Christian life, someone told me that "we must learn to forgive God."  The person who made the statement proposed that since God sometimes determines or allows difficult things to come into our lives, we must absolve Him no less than we do others who hurt us.    

Although still wet behind the ears as a believer, I immediately reacted against any such notion.  I still react against it, as I am sure you do.  "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  It's hard to imagine a thicker shroud of darkness descending upon us than entertaining the accusation or even the implication that our Lord has acted unfairly toward us.  Satan tempted Eve by suggesting that God withheld a Divinity and knowledge He should have bestowed upon her and Adam.  "The serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).  The devil continues his accusatory insinuations upon God until this day.  We must counter with bold affirmation in our thoughts, beliefs, convictions, and words that "His way is perfect!"    

It is.  Never in eternal history has our Heavenly Father conducted Himself in any way other than the best possible course of action.  Nor will He ever act in anything less than pristine perfection.  We may not always understand His whys and wherefores.  We can be sure, however, of His motives, means, and methods.  This presents a great challenge because we have no frame of reference for perfection.  Well aware of our faulty understanding and perception, Satan seeks to tempt us with uncertainty regarding God's determinations and allowances.  If we are not strongly established in the vital doctrine of our Lord's perfect way, we may easily succumb to questioning Him in a manner that suggests unfairness and error on His part.  Again, a shroud of darkness descends upon us if we succumb to this devilish deception, leading to grave weakness in our walk with the Lord.  

I suspect the person who so many years ago suggested we forgive the Lord might not have meant that God wasactually guilty of error and injustice, but rather that since it might seem to be so, we do well to absolve Him of blame in our own minds. This notion must be rejected no less than the more direct accusation.   Indeed, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must not allow even the wisp of a cloud to block our vision of God's perfect motive, means and method. 

In your life and mine, He has never acted in a manner less than the pristine purity of the best possible course of action.  Nor will He ever.  This we must believe because it is true, and because we cannot walk by faith with a God whose way we view as less than perfect.  Forgive Him?  Never!  Praise, thank, and fall before Him in the blinding light of His sublime purity?  Always!

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."(Psalm 145:17)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"What?  That!"   

We had strong tornadoes in our city yesterday for the second time in a week.  We're far more noted for the "straight-line" tempests of hurricanes, so the twisters have elicited some nervous moments for all.  Those who suffered damage in the storm face clean up and recovery challenges similar to the aftermath of late summer winds that often blow in our area.    

"Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps: fire and hail; snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling His word" (Psalm 148:6-7).    

What particular "word" does a "stormy wind" fulfill?  In the general sense, we might deduce that this refers to the Bible's message of His involvement in a fallen world, characterized by a cursed ground and an atmosphere governed (under God's ultimate authority) by "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2).  The entrance of sin into the human race through Adam brought necessary thorns into our earthly experience for the purpose of revealing our need for the Lord.  "Before I was afflicted, I went astray.  But now I have kept Thy word" (Psalm 119:67).  Stormy winds certainly comprise part of this loving revelation, revealing the truth of how helpless we actually are in the face of life's uncertain realities.    
Specifically, we rarely know the whys and wherefores of God's determinations and allowances.  Some people experience the brunt of storms, while others escape.  It is a risky business to decide that we know the specific reasons for such mystery.  I try to avoid pronouncements of judgment or bestowals of mercy based upon evaluations of people's response to God, or lack thereof.  Stormy winds and other calamities impact the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). 

Indeed, in our area, hurricanes have destroyed the homes and taken the lives of Christians who were doubtless on their knees praying at the time of destruction.  Conversely, storms often spare those who might be cursing Heaven for the fearful tempest.  Who can understand or offer explanation for such an enigma?  Personally, I'll pass on the attempt.   

I will say, however, that while we often don't know what God is doing, we can be sure that He is doing something.  "God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11). 

Moreover, His doings are perfect (II Samuel 22:31).  Our Lord weaves His determinations and allowances into a fabric that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, and works "all things together for good" for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Nothing happens in our lives outside the scope of God's wisdom and power to coordinate into our best interests, defined in Scripture as being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).      

Tornadoes on Christmas Day.  How did such "stormy wind fulfill His word?"  I don't know.  I just know that it did, in accordance with the Psalmist's declaration.  We can trust God in both blessing and calamity, and in those times when we cannot understand His hand, we can trust His heart.  Again, "His way is perfect." 

Therein, our souls find rest in calm and storm, knowing that both fulfill His word.

"He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves are thereof are still."(Psalm 107:25; 29)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day, 2012 "Not Hardly"

     A brief moment of concern gave way to remembrance and rejoicing as I read the headline, published several days before Christmas:     "Christianity Nearly Extinct In Middle East."   

"Not hardly," I thought to myself, recalling another "headline," published more than two millennia ago:   

"They crucified Him" (Matthew 27:35).

  Beginning with its Founder, the Christian faith has seemingly experienced the finality of death throughout her history.  The world, devil and flesh put away the Lord Jesus Christ, only to find a blaze of the most intense glory arising from the ashes of the cross.  They do the same to His church, only to find her shining forth in a glory that could not have ignited save in the throes of rejection and persecution.  Indeed, a religion of force cannot make extinct the reality of faith.  It can only serve as a purifying and sanctifying agent whereby God uses the attacks of the wicked to draw the righteous more devotedly unto Himself.  Moreover, He then sends us forth to "shine as lights in the world," lights more brilliant because our enemies' attempts to extinguish Christ's illumination always result in the dark nights that provide backdrop for the brightest moons (Philippians 2:15).   

Certainly, public observance of Christianity may wane in the Middle East, even as on a lesser scale, we see in our culture the increasing attempts of the wicked to remove the Lord Jesus from open display and discourse. While I love manger scenes as much as any believer, and believe they should be freely displayed, I don't overly concern myself with their removal.  Instead, I wonder what the Lord must be up to by allowing such evil to seemingly have sway.  He does His best work when He grants Satan the longest leash, as it were.  The cross illuminates this truth to us, as God uses the worst thing that ever happened, the cruel unjust murder of His Son, to redeem multitudes who believe that the crucifixion served as prelude to the resurrection.  The same spiritual dynamic continues until this present hour.  Yes, the brightest light shines in the blackest night.  Losses pave the way for gains.  Sorrows carve within our hearts new venues for Christ's joy.  And death serves to make possible the risen Christ coming forth from sad tombs redeemed by God to become glad temples of His greatest glory.   

I close with remembrance of the Marine Corps legend involving a sargent whose team was surrounded on every side by an overwhelming force.  Despite such odds and apparently looming disaster, the uncowered warrior radioed back to his commander, "Sir, we've got them right where we want them!"  This is the faith of the Captain of our salvation.  It must also be ours, as we remember that the appearance of "extinction" means that some new tomb will soon become a temple.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."(Romans 8:35-37)

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."(II Corinthians 4:10)

Monday, December 24, 2012

"This Unlikely Christ"

    The fact of God's presence is often in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence."He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).

     One might expect the entrance of God into the world to be accompanied by the fanfare, pomp and circumstance befitting the King of the universe.  Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ arrived in the quiet meekness of "a still, small voice" (I Kings 19:12).  He would live in such unobtrusive and unassuming manner that after the beginning of His ministry and miracles, "neither did His brethren believe in Him" (John 7:5).  He would die on a cross reserved for the wicked and condemned.  He arose from death by a resurrection that no human eye directly witnessed, and which remained unobserved by the masses.  He ascended to Heaven, again with few witnesses, and with no great earthly ceremony.  He remains unseen and unheard by human eye or ear after 2,000 years, purposing to be known rather in the hearts of those who discover the unlikely way of the seemingly unlikely Christ.

     We must expect in our lives this unlikely way, this unlikely Christ.  His hand will be most active when it seems most stilled.  His abundance will flow where riverbeds appear dry and parched.  His light will shine most brightly in darkness.  His seeming absence will herald His most imminent presence, and when it seems we most require a conquering general, an apparently helpless baby will lie in some manger of our particular circumstance and venue.  Indeed, "a virgin shall conceive" in our lives no less than did Mary 2,000 years ago, as God brings forth His Son from whence it seems He could not come (Isaiah 7:14).

     Perhaps just now, the unlikely Christ graces us with opportunity to know Him as He presently must be known.  Surely He does, in some fashion, in some way, in some manger.  Where it seems He could not be, we must believe He is there.  Christmas tells us nothing if it does not proclaim this glory of the unlikely.  May our Heavenly Father grant much grace of remembrance whereby His light leads us to most discover the fact of God's presence in venues where He most appears to be absent.

"This shall be a sign unto you.  Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
(Luke 2:12)
"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
(John 1:46)
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."
(Acts 2:22-24).

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Show Me"

     "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).
     "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults" (Psalm 19:12).

    Of the ongoing and lifelong discussions born again believers must have with their Lord, none are more important than the discourse involving the request, "Show me where I am wrong, Heavenly Father."

     We must ask this question in the awareness that we will be subject to temptation throughout our earthly lifetime.  Moreover, our spiritual enemies find subtle ways to inculcate us with darkness if we fail to remember the possibility of deception and distraction from the path of righteousness.  "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3).  Wise is the Christian who understands his fleshly proclivity to error.  Deceived already is the Christian blind to his need for God's ongoing searching and cleansing.

     Little more need be said.  Let us simply remember the possibility of thoughts, attitudes, words, deeds, relationships, and ways of relating that may proceed not from the Spirit of Christ within, but from the law of sin that still inhabits our earthly faculties and members (Romans 7:23-25).  May the Lord save us from such.  Remembering our need for His ongoing examination provides the beginning of such deliverance.

"The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
(Hebrews 4:12)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Peace Conveyed"

    Every thought or feeling of insecurity provides born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ with opportunity to trust God for His peace and assurance.     "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).    "Afraid" can refer to any sense of jeopardy or uncertainty, regardless of nature or measure.  Our Heavenly Father desires the tranquility of our hearts in all things.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee" (Isaiah26:3).  Tiny seeds of fear can and will sprout into rooted plants of fear if we do not quickly and decisively confront the challenge of our spiritual enemies to thwart the peace of the Lord Jesus in our hearts.  "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines" (Song of Solomon 2:15).    
The Apostle Paul commanded that we "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians10:5).  Notions of fear and insecurity, however seemingly insignificant upon first consideration, must be countered by our determination to trust the Lord for His leadership, provision, and protection.  "The name odd the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe" (Proverbs18:10).  Believers live from a place and position of such strength and security in Christ that we can live "bold as a lion" (Proverbs28:1).  We should.  We must!  A world steeped in fear awaits to see the peace of God in our faces, our attitudes, our words, the tone of our voices, and our Christ-secured demeanor.  The Lord Jesus is more than able to confront every challenge we will ever face, and has in fact already done so.  As we trust in Him in our "what time I am afraid" challenges, such moments will become blessed experiences of "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).  Moreover, peace experienced becomes peace conveyed unto others.  Few opportunities present themselves that have more potential for impacting our particular spheres of influence for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."(John 16:33)

"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."(Philippians 4:6-7)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Raw Cookie Dough"

    Those rolls of chocolate chip cookie dough you can buy at the grocery store came out when I was a child in the 1960s.  I soon discovered how good they were when baked.  They were much better, however, when eaten raw (still are).  I often begged my mother to "Let me just eat 'em like they are, Mama!"  My mother wouldn't allow such a thing, however.  "You'll shoot your eye out!" she often sa... well, actually, that's another story about another little boy, isn't it?!  So, I only had that wonderful raw cookie dough when I snuck into the kitchen and cut off a chunk from the roll, hoping my mother wouldn't notice.  Sadly, she did, with the tragic upshot being that she stopped buying the cookie dough.

     We ask the Lord for many things He provides in precise response to our requests.  "Ask and ye shall receive" (John 16:24).  Other prayers are answered in such abundance and perfect wisdom that we may not even recognize God has provided in a manner "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).  Some requests, however, fall on deaf heavenly ears, and let us be grateful that they do.

    "Ye ask and have not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3).

    In prayer, our Heavenly Father's "No" may be as important as His "Yes."  Regardless of how well meaning an "amiss" prayer may seem to our own perspective, grave destruction might result if we could somehow convince God to sentimentally acquiesce to our misguided desires.  Indeed, Israel once begged God for a king so they could be more like the pagan nations around them (I Samuel 8:5).  God responded in order to teach His earthly people a lesson, as well as provide a vital spiritual truth to us.  "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:15).

     Sometimes in prayer, we ask God for raw cookie dough.  We make request for that which seems good, but which would harm us and others if provided.  Thus, we do well to ask our Lord for His guidance as we pray.  Moreover, we should thank Him for those times when we "ask and have not."  God spares us bellyaches and far worse by loving us enough to say "No" when and as necessary.

"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us."
(I John 5:14)

"The Time Would Fail"

(Thanks to Jack and Steve for their ministry with us)

    Frances and I conduct four services at week at a local retirement community, which includes both an assisted living section, and a nursing care facility.  The nine years we have spent with the people at Gordan Oaks has blessed our hearts beyond all measure and description.  I'd like to share a few of those blessings with you as an expression of gratitude to God and appreciation for the dear friends at Gordon Oaks Retirement Community who have so enriched our lives.

    First, this ministry came to us completely by surprise.  A friend had begun ministering at Gordon Oaks on Tuesday afternoons, leading services in both the assisted living section and the nursing facility.  He asked me to come over one Tuesday to sing and preach.  Little did I know that "one Tuesday" would lead to many Tuesdays, as well as Sundays (and soon to come, Thursday, as we begin a new service this week).  Frances and I were already busy with other ministries, and had no idea that such a path awaited us in life.  Now, however, we can't imagine having missed the joys we've known at Gordon Oaks.  The Lord does that quite often regarding ministries, doesn't He?  They come to us rather than our going to them.  "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

    Not long after our ministry began, I recall a Tuesday when I said to Frances as I informed her of my schedule for the day, "I have to go to Gordon Oaks."  Immediately, the thought occurred to me that I had misspoken.  "No, Frances, today I get to go to Gordon Oaks!"  Never have we felt otherwise, which says nothing about Frances and me, but everything about the Lord who so graciously works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  "The love of Christ constraineth us" (II Corinthians 5:14).  Indeed, when in our hearts and minds, "I have to" becomes "I get to," we enter into God's truth and its sublime grace and blessedness.

    On a Tuesday in November, 2003, about six months after we had begun ministering at Gordon Oaks, the activities director approached me, asking if I knew of anyone whom might be interesting in leading a Sunday chapel service for the nursing home residents.  For several weeks previously, I had been thinking of asking Beth about this very possibility.  The fellowship of believers I pastor meets on Sunday afternoons, so the morning was open. "Well, Beth, uh, I think I might know of somebody...."  "My times are in Thy hands" (Psalm 31:15).

    As I often say, I wouldn't have wanted to have lived without knowing Jim Kelly.  Jim was a resident at Gordon Oaks during the first 4 years of our ministry, and celebrated his 100th birthday while there.  You may recall that I've written about Jim on several occasions in the Orange Moon devotionals.  The truth of the matter is that I could write a book about our dear friend!  From his joyous faith in the Lord Jesus, to his singing in "the key of J," to his uproarious laughter that filled the halls of Gordon Oaks, Jim left a legacy in our hearts that will never leave us.  Frances favorite memory of Jim involves his frequent response to the question, "How are you, Jim?"  "I'm great, Frances!" he'd say with his singular Jim Kelly gusto.  "This is the best day of my life!"  And he meant it.  For me, I'd just say that Jim Kelly was the youngest person I ever met.  Again, I wouldn't have wanted to have lived without knowing our dear friend, or for that matter, countless other dear people at Gordon Oaks.  Many have passed on to be with our Lord, of course.  I look forward to seeing them again in that blessed Community where there will be no weakness, no sickness, no wheelchairs, and where Jim's uproarious laughter will sound and resound  for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

    I think also of Liz, the dear lady who loves the first hymn many of us ever learned as children.  "Glen," Liz told me one day, When I'm going down the halls in my wheelchair and encounter somebody who looks down and sad, I stop and take them by the hand.  I ask the person, "Why don't we sing 'Jesus Loves Me' together?  It always seems to help."  Whew!  I want you to imagine that scene, and then join me in wonder at so glorious a Savior, and so faithful and powerful a sister in Christ!  Liz moved to another retirement community last year, where I am sure the strains of her music are often heard.  "Jesus loves me, this I know..."  We miss them and we miss her at Gordon Oaks.

    Mike Balzli comes to mind and heart.  Mike and I played baseball together in our younger days (Mike was also a state champion runner, whom the coaches had lead us in our laps before and after practice.  Boy, I hated Mike in those days! :) ).  His mother is a dear and devoted believer who lives in the assisted living section of Gordon Oaks, and regularly attends our services.  I hadn't seen Mike in more than 30 years until he came to a meeting with his mother about a year ago, the first of many services he attended.  Mike has very serious cancer, but more importantly, he trusts the Lord Jesus.  I've never heard him complain, but I've seen him walk with our Lord through this great challenge, and I know he will greatly appreciate your prayers for him.  Frances and I have been blessed over and over again by the same faith and devotion to Christ in so many hurting people at Gordon Oaks.  Amazing, and once again, we've seen so glorious a Savior and so faithful and powerful our brothers and sisters in Christ!

    In principle and doctrine, I strongly believe there to be no division between the sacred and the secular in our lives.  "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).  In practice, however, I too often fail to see the presence and involvement of the Lord Jesus in all things.  One day, as I prepared to wash dishes (an everyday task that, as Frances says, becomes obsolete almost as soon as you finish performing it), I felt burdened and put out.  "I have to do this again?!"  The thought and accompanying feeling of irritation began to settle in, until it occurred to me.  "How many of our dear friends at Gordon Oaks would love to be in their homes again, washing dishes?"  Overwhelmed, I realized how blessed I am, and without their even knowing it, our brothers and sisters once again became the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life, reminding me that every moment, every venue, circumstance, situation and condition provides opportunity to know the blessedness of the Lord Jesus with gratitude and praise.  "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

   When chronicling the faith and faithfulness of God's trusting children through the ages, the writer of Hebrews concludes, "
The time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets." (Hebrews 11:32).  I know how the writer felt.  Frances and I could never begin to report and describe all the blessedness we have experienced at Gordon Oaks.  Indeed, I've not mentioned the wonderful staff members we've known who so self sacrificially give of themselves to the residents and their families.  I've also neglected to tell of countless family members who visit their loved ones at often as possible, and exemplify the love of the Lord Jesus in ways that beautifully honor and reveal Him.  Indeed, so many moments, so many gifts to our hearts of God's lovingkindness and grace have come to Frances and me through the people of Gordon Oaks!  "The time would fail me to tell..."

    A final thought.  Frances and I are hopeful that we have provided some ministry to our dear friends at Gordon Oaks,  We know, however, what they have provided for us.  Ministry works that way in Christ.  Things get turned inside out, as it were.  Those who seem to be giving are actually the ones receiving.  Of course, I write to those who themselves experience such blessedness as you walk with the Lord Jesus in your own lives and ministries.  Which leads to another story for another day, of how all of you have so blessed and enriched our lives.  Yet again, the time would fail me to tell...

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

    I failed to express appreciation in this morning's message to our friend Larry Voas, who frequently drives over from Mississippi to speak in our services.  Larry is a dear friend and wonderful Bible teacher, and greatly loved by the people of Gordon Oaks.  Thanks, Larry, and it's about time for you to come over!

    Also, our friend John S. (I never can remember how to spell your last name, John!) provided amazing personal ministry to the people of Gordon Oaks for several years.  Thanks so much, John, and we miss you.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Here Is Christmas

(The lyrics from a new song written recently)

Here Is Christmas

Here is Christmas, it comes once again,
bringing its message of redemption from our sin.
Here is the Child promised long ago
to lead us to the Father whom every heart must know.(Refrain) Oh here is Christmas,
let your heart rejoice!
May praises and thanksgiving
be heard from every voice,
for here is Christmas.

To Bethlehem the baby came in humility,
to save us from our sin, and from our self sufficiency.He taught us how to live and then
He taught us how to die.
He shed His blood and He gave His life
to pay the awful price.

Oh here is Christmas, let your heart rejoice!
May praises and thanksgiving
be heard from every voice,
for here is Christmas.

I hear the bells of Christmas ringing,
singing once again,
telling of that blessed morn that promises to men
the Light still shines in darkness
to illuminate the way,
for Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day!

Oh here is Christmas, let your heart rejoice!
May praises and thanksgiving
be heard from every voice,
for here is Christmas.

"For unto us a Child is born, a Son is given" (Isaiah 9:6)

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Why seek ye the living among the dead?"

    "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5).

    We really shouldn't expect people who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ to believe, think, speak, act and relate in the same manner as those who do.

    Passing by cemeteries, we don't look to see the activities of the living.  Neither should we seek life in those whom the Bible declares to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ who declared, "I am the life," human beings possess no capacity for the goodness and godliness that reveals true vitality (John 14:6).  The influence of the Holy Spirit in the world may lead to some facsimile of righteous behavior, along with upbringing and cultural norms influenced by Judeo-Christian teaching.  We all know unbelievers who live outwardly moral lives that may even seem to surpass the quality of life lived by some believers.  Such expression of goodness does not change the fact of inward spiritual emptiness, however, and we shouldn't be surprised when the dead act as they are in fact dead.

    The Gospel of the Lord Jesus involves the giving of life to the dead.  We share Christ not first and foremost to pluck bad fruit and attach good to a corrupted plant.  We rather seek to be the means by which God plants a tree of life, His life, in those who respond to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.  Thereby, good and expected fruits of godliness should appear as the living Christ bears His sublime harvest of righteousness in thought, attitude, word, relationship and deed.  Indeed, life conceives and births life.  Nothing else can accomplish this spiritually organic miracle, and thus we save ourselves much frustration and perplexity by not seeking the living among the dead.

"To live is Christ."
(Philippians 1:21)
"The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God."
(Galatians 2:20)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Representative Righteousness”

    God never created human beings to be righteous in and of ourselves.

     “Christ is made unto us… righteousness” (I Corinthians 1:30).

    That which is righteous exists in accordance with God’s intentions and purposes.  It is what He made it to be.  By Biblical definition, no human being can independently accomplish this state of being, nor can we fulfill God’s perfect standard of righteous actions.  “Without Me, ye can do nothing” declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples (John 15:5).  Thus, from the beginning, we were always intended to “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” in order to be righteous and to walk righteously (Hebrews 12:2).

     When Adam and Eve sinned, they took upon themselves the deluded notion that they could “be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).  In order to achieve such an exalted status, they must become righteous by their own effort to establish corresponding character, nature and activity.  The attempt was doomed from the start.  Indeed, by disobeying God, our forefathers became unrighteous even as they began the quest for independent righteousness.  “As for God, His way is perfect” (II Samuel 22:31).  Having sinned, Adam and Eve (and their subsequent offspring to whom they passed down their nature) should have discovered from the start the hopelessness of their quest for righteousness apart from the One who alone it can be said, “Thou art righteous” (Ezra 9:15).

     We exist to be inhabited, led and enabled by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is righteousness for human beings, the representative righteousness that leads to realized righteousness in character, nature, and way of life.  Nothing else suffices in both constituting and empowering human beings to fulfill the reason for our existence.  We cannot be and do what we were created to be and do by ourselves.  Nor were we intended to do so.  We rather exist to be “habitations of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2: ).  Born again believers are righteous in being because the Spirit of Christ dwells in us.  We act righteously in behavior because that same Spirit walks in us, leading, motivating and enabling all genuine godliness.  No other righteousness is needed, nor is any other possible.

“He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
(II Corinthians 5:21)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“The Joy of the Lord”

    Our view of God’s disposition determines our own.

    “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).

    This truth particularly applies to the matter of joy.  Do we view our Lord as a joyful being?  We must, if we are to faithfully understand and respond to the teaching of Scripture.

    “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
     “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).
     “Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Hebrews 1:8-9).

    While the Bible depicts God as experiencing the full gamut of feeling, His primary emotional sensibility teems with joy and gladness.  The reason for such a blessed truth involves the fact that our Lord finds His primary fulfillment in Himself, that is, in the triune being of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The conditions and happenings of creation affect Him emotionally, particularly the human race originally created in His image.  We do not, however, determine whether God exists in “exceeding joy,” or as anointed with “the oil of gladness.”  These blessed sensibilities flow from and within the Godhead, wherein three perfect Persons exist in a oneness of loving devotion, affection and commitment.  Thus, He (They) do not require us to provide joy in the most primary sense and sensibility.

    Our view of a joyful Heaven elicits and inspires a joyful experience in our own hearts upon the earth.  As with God, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ feel the full gamut of emotion during our sojourn in a fallen world.  A Biblical view of our Lord nevertheless installs joy as our growing and primary emotional sensibility.  Whatever circumstances and conditions may involve, our joy ebbs or flows to the degree we know God in whatever life may bring to us.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”   From prisons, crosses, pits, pyres, sickbeds, and painful challenges known by believers throughout the history of the church, the Lord’s song of joy has sounded and resounded.  Yes, our view of God’s disposition determines our own.  He is a wellspring of joy by and within Himself, causing those who know Him as He is to become His tributaries of gladness in all places, at all times, and in all things.

“Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.”
(Philippians 4:4)

Monday, December 10, 2012

“We Are Mephibosheth”

    We are all Mephibosheth.

     “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar. Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!
 And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?
Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house.  Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table” (II Samuel 9:1-10).

    Because of the length of this blessed passage, I will keep my comments brief.  Mephibosheth had no inherent claim on King David’s beneficence.  He was blessed for his father Jonathan’s sake, because Jonathan had been such a dear friend of David during his earthly lifetime.  Lame, and apparently cursed of God, Mephibosheth found the grace that transformed a “dead dog” into an adopted family member at the king’s table.

     You see the analogy.  We are “accepted in the Beloved.”  God blesses us “with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.”  He grants unto us “the unsearchable riches of Christ” because our blessed Lord “became poor” for us.  We are heirs of God because we are related to “the Heir of all things.”  The wondrous chronicle of grace could go on and on.  We are Mephibosheth.  The Lord Jesus is our Jonathan.  God the Father is the David who brought the lame man unto his table for a lifetime because he was related to Jonathan. 

     A final thought, in the form of a question: can you imagine how much Mephibosheth loved both Jonathan and David?  Yes, you can.  Yes, we can.  Because we are Mephibosheth.

“The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
(I Timothy 1:14-15)

“Of Light”

    You may be familiar with Thomas Kinkade, “The Painter of Light,” as he was called during his lifetime.  Kinkade’s work certainly displays the reason he achieved such a title and reputation, as his painting of beautiful scenes radiate a luminescent quality particularly appealing to most people.  We have several Kinkade works in our home, and I never tire of looking at them and being drawn into the mood and atmosphere they depict.

    Sadly, Thomas Kinkade died recently of complications related to alcoholism.  A professing believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, Kincaid failed to heed the warning of the Apostle Paul to Christians included in the epistle to the Romans:

     “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11-14).

     Again, note that Paul addresses this admonition to believers.  Therefore, while I have no way of knowing if Kinkade’s profession of Christ was genuine, I am aware that it is possible he may have truly known the Lord Jesus despite the ignoble nature of his departure from the world.  Thus, “the Painter of Light” may have failed to “put on the armor of light” that would have caused his life to reflect the theme of his art.

     I intend by this no criticism of Thomas Kinkade.  He answers to the Lord, as do we all.  I would, however, remind us that our saving faith in the Lord Jesus does not guarantee that we will honor Him in how we live, and how we die.  Paul would not command Christians to “walk in the light” and to “cast off the works of darkness” if it were not possible for our lives to be characterized by “rioting and drunkenness… chambering and wantonness…strife and envying” (Ephesians 5:8).  Certainly, no such behavior should characterize believers in the Lord Jesus.  Nevertheless, such lapses of faith, obedience and godliness can happen to the sons and daughters of God despite the abundance of God’s presence and power freely provided in Christ. 

    Well into Paul’s life and ministry, he expressed concern as to whether he would finish well.  I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27).  The Apostle’s concern did not involve salvation and the gift of eternal life provided freely in Christ.  “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (II Timothy 1:12).  Paul did know, however, that he could stumble along the path of righteousness in such a serious way that he would no longer be useful to God for life and ministry (this did not happen, of course, as his joyful confession - “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith!” - rings forth from his final words to Timothy (II Timothy 4:7).  Thus, the Paul kept His body under submission by the power of the Holy Spirit, and remembrance of the Lord to whom he belonged.

     The Painter of Light may well have been a child of the light who failed to “put on the armor of light.”  If so, Thomas Kinkade would encourage and challenge us to avoid the sad path that early ended his life, and more importantly, that kept him from honoring his Lord in both life and death.  I hope that we shall see him in Heaven.  And I hope that we shall all arrive there, having finished our course by the example rather of Paul, the Apostle of Light.

Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
(Ephesians 5:8)

Friday, December 7, 2012


Left to myself, Father, nothing,
and even worse, as my native bent
forms something, something dark and averse
to all that You are, and all You intend
that I would be.

You leave me not to myself, o Lord,
You rather undertake a work of love
Whereby nothing becomes something,
Something from Above, made in the image of who You are,
and who You promise I will be.

I am not, I cannot – You are, You can –
Hope rests solely in Christ,
This I understand, while devil, flesh and world
Still wrestle to suppress
All You would have me to be.

The end will see me glorified,
By grace alone, such grace
Through Christ who suffered so,
to make nothing into something, something that
He only could make me to be!

Left to myself, Father, nothing,
But by You, in You, through You – something - something
That You would have me to be…

“We are His workmanship... He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
(Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:6)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

“If You Can Speak, You’re Ok”

(Friends: Frances wrote this for her Cafe Powder Room blog.  It beautifully addresses a truth we often consider, and I thought I’d send it as today’s message.  Glen.)

        In the operating room, patients having a Cesarean Section sometimes experience the muscles which "feel" breathing become numb from the anesthetic. This gives the woman the feeling that she is no longer able to breathe sufficiently. We have learned to tell the patient beforehand that this might occur and that to reassure herself, as long as she can speak, she will be breathing OK.     We tend to take our own breath for granted until we are afraid we don't have it, or we think we can't feel it, as is the case with these women. I was discussing this with my grandchildren the other day. Since we were beginning the Christmas season, we were quite naturally discussing gifts. I was telling them how many wonderful gifts the Lord has given to us. Equating gifts with something wrapped under the tree, I tried to give them an example.     "Did you know even your breath is a gift from God?" I asked them.  My grandson gave me his usual bright eyed, shocked look. "The Bible tells us that He gives us each breath." I went on to tell them that the Lord even made it so that we didn't have to think about breathing, it just happens naturally.    "Just think what would happen if you got busy playing and forgot to breathe?" I put much more emphasis on the "forgot to breathe" and immediately I had their attention. If nothing else, Grannie Frannie can be a great story-teller.    I grasped my neck with both hands as if I was choking, "Oh no," I said in a frantic, pretend voice, "I was so busy, I almost didn't breathe! I almost died!" Cackles of laughter ensued. "What if we got sleepy? How would we ever sleep? We'd have to wake up every few seconds to breathe!" I reminded them of just how thoughtful it was of God to make it so we didn't have to think about breathing.      From a physiological standpoint, it is really neat how the body makes sure that breath continues, as the carbon dioxide levels rise in the body. Which is why no one can "hold their breath until they die." I told the children that when they were older, I'd explain all that to them. Although, by the time they are ready to understand it, I'm sure I will have forgotten it.    The point is, every gift we have or will ever receive is somehow from the Lord. Even things we don't realize as gifts, such as our breath, are gifts from Him.    "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;" (Acts 17:24.)    Once our sight begins to wane, we realize what a gift that is. Or our hearing. Every aspect of these amazing bodies He has created is a gift and each one so unique and special. When we think we have nothing else to be thankful for, we can just start at the top of our head and go down to our tiniest toe and thank away. We are"fearfully and wonderfully made," and even our bodies are a great gift.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

 (James 1:17).

"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."

(2 Corinthians 9:15)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“Death and Resurrection”

        Resurrections require deaths.

    “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” (II Corinthians 4:10-11).

     Death and resurrection provide the very foundation upon which the Christian faith rests.  Had the Lord Jesus not died, no redeeming atonement for our sins would exist.  Had He not arose from the dead, our faith would comprise a mere lifeless exercise of religious ritual and duty.  Because our Savior died and arose, however, God can freely provide forgiveness and redemption with no compromise of His character.  Moreover, because Christ is risen from the dead, salvation bestows not merely life to the recipient, but the surpassing transcendence of Life beyond life.  These truths form and inform our faith as the very heart of God’s redemptive purposes in the world.

    One might therefore suspect that the presence of Christ’s Spirit in our hearts might lead to a similar path as traveled by our Lord.  It does.  “I die daily” wrote the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, referencing the sufferings he experienced in order that Christ might be manifested through Paul (I Corinthians 15:31-32).  The same will be true in all who know the same crucified and risen Christ.  Countless challenges, both large and small, provide opportunity for personal experiences of resurrection that become opportunities to both exemplify and confess that the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead.  Indeed, the question that often arises from some loss in our lives – “Why did this happen to me?” – can be answered in Paul’s affirmation of Christ revealed in us – “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

   Death and resurrection began our salvation.  The same cross and empty tomb process characterizes our experience of salvation as the Spirit of Christ walks in us.  God can honor us in no greater way than to lead us along the same path long ago trodden by our Lord.  It is not an easy journey.  However, it is the most blessed of journeys when we recognize that we “walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).  Yes, deaths make possible resurrections whereby we know the living Christ, but more importantly, whereby others know Him as revealed in us and by us.

“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”(II Corinthians 4:12)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

“More To the Picture”

    Sometimes prayers that seemingly must be answered apparently go unanswered.

    Had, for example, we been in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, we might have earnestly sought the help of God for a man unjustly accused and tried for capital crimes against the state.  The horrible injustice of Roman execution by a cross awaited the accused if found guilty.

     “Lord, this man has done nothing amiss!  On the contrary, He has done all things well!  I have seen Him help so many people by His words, His actions, His attitudes, and even miracles that You must have inspired and empowered!  Please, Lord, save this man from the terrible fate that will cause Him undeserved shame, suffering and death.  Please, Lord, help this man!”

     No nobler or well-meaning prayer could be imagined or offered.  If answered, however, the consequence would have involved the eternal damnation of the entire human race.

     “Christ died for our sins… we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (I Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:9).

     God would not and could not answer the aforementioned prayer in the literal sense in which it might have been prayed.  He had sent His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world for the very purpose of suffering and dying for us.  However, He did respond to the good and well-meaning intention of the prayer, albeit in a far greater way than the supplicant who prayed could envision.  God saved His Son from death by resurrecting Him (Hebrews 5:7).  He then exponentially amplified the glory by imparting the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection to untold multitudes of the redeemed.  “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight” (Colossians 1:22-23).

     With God, there is always more to the picture than meets the eye.  If good and noble prayers seemingly go unanswered, it may be that our Lord’s response involves far greater purposes than our eyes can envision.  Yes, sometimes a cross is His answer, or at least, a cross initiates God’s working in response to our praying.  His ways transcend our understanding, and the bestowal of His grace often flows through tributaries that wind their way through dark valleys of pain, sorrow and loss.  “We went through fire and through water: but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:12)

      2,000 years ago, seemingly unanswered prayers on behalf of a just man led to eternal salvation on behalf of multitudes of the unjust.  The same principle may apply when our current prayers seem to find no response in the heart and hand of God.  He may well be accomplishing some purpose far beyond our capacity to fathom and ask, some purpose of redemption that requires a cross in order to make possible a resurrection.  Yes, as we pray, let us remember that with God, there is always more to picture than meets the eye. 

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Monday, December 3, 2012

“Received and Assimilated”

    Something will fill the hearts of human beings. Created as “vessels,” we will either receive and assimilate the one Content for which we were made and exist, or we will seek other things or persons to occupy our innermost being (Romans 9:22-23).

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have received the Content for which God created us.  We have received Him.  “I will dwell in them” (II Corinthians 6:16).  The issue for us therefore becomes assimilation.   Do we increasingly know, believe and affirm that we are not merely ourselves, but that we are ourselves, as inhabited by the living God?  We must, because the Christian life involves far more than beginning reception.  It must also involve ongoing application to the wondrous gift given when we believed, the gift of God Himself revealed in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  “Ye are the temple of God… As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (I Corinthians 3:16; Colossians 2:6).

    We are ourselves, with all the characteristics of humanity, as well as our particular personalities, histories, inclinations and ways of responding to the fact of our existence.  If we have believed, however, a greater truth and reality pervades the center and circumference of our being.  Christ lives in us, and we live in Christ. Again, we are not merely ourselves.  We are ourselves, as inhabited by the infinite and everlasting God.  No other content can fill and fulfill our hearts. Nor can any other interest serve as the guiding light of peace, contentment, joy and enabling.  “He is thy life” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

    This truth received birthed us into the eternal life of relationship with the Lord Jesus.  This truth increasingly assimilated matures us into those who rightly know themselves, but more importantly, who know the God in whom we “live, move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  This day and this very moment offers the possibility of remembering, believing and affirming the wonder of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). God made our hearts for this gracious bestowal of Himself, and no other content suffices to fill and fulfill us.

“This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”(John 17:3)

Friday, November 30, 2012

“The Atheist’s Bluster” 

(Thanks to Hugh for the inspiration.)     

     A good friend recently wrote to me about an atheism promotion he witnessed on the side of a bus that read, “Be good without God!”

    The truth of the matter is that one cannot even beevil without God.

     “In Him we live and move and have our being… He giveth to all life and breath and all things” (Acts17:25; 28).

     This does not imply, of course, that God is responsible for the wickedness of man.  “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13).  It does mean that the “life, breath and all things” required for human beings to disbelieve and disobey their Maker comes directly from the very One they reject.  The atheist who foolishly encourages the search for goodness apart from God is able to suggest such wickedness only because the Divine provision of “life, breath and all things” makes possible his waywardness.

     If this does not cause headscratching puzzlement, it can only be because we do not have heads, or we fail to consider carefully enough the Biblical proposal. Again, the wicked have no being save in God.  They possess no breath apart from His generous bestowal.  Thus, He gives those who reject Him the basic necessities for the exercise of their rejection. Furthermore, He somehow fits their unbelief and disobedience into His eternal purpose in Christ, despite the truth that He does not cause sin, or even tempt to sin.  We need proceed no further to promote a furrowed brow, a scratched head, and the puzzled response, “But Lord, how….?”

     We need not go there. We don’t require answers for such mystery, and couldn’t handle the truth even if God attempted to explain His ineffable ways. It’s enough to know thatHe knows, and that the atheist’s bluster, while personally tragic to the bearer, does not interfere with our Lord’s inexorable march toward redeeming and filling the universe with the glory of His Son (Ephesians 1:10). Remember always that exhaled expressions of unbelief begin always with breath inhaled as the direct gift of God to those who reject Him.    The Lord could withhold such a gift if He chose to do so, and if He could not somehow fit the atheist’s bluster into His purposes.  He can.  He does.  And here we rest our hearts in a world wherein we increasingly witness tragic misuse of God’s gifts, but triumphant fulfillment of His purposes.

“God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”(Ephesians 1:11)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

“The Seemeth Right”

(Thanks to Sterling for the inspiration, and to his father Mike, for a lifetime of cherished friendship.)  

    “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

     “Lord, save us from the ‘seemeth right’.”  I once heard an old preacher offer this supplication, the wisdom of which I more and more appreciate as the years go by.

    The baubles of the world, the devil, and the flesh gleam brightly before even the most godly eyes.  As a young man whom I greatly respect once said when he was a mere lad, “Satan makes good things seem bad, and bad things seem good.”  How easily we overlook such wisdom when our flesh craves things, possessions, relationships and opportunities that promise life, but purvey death.

    The father of the young man whom I mentioned is a lifelong friend, and is, in fact, the man who led me to the Lord.  Mike and I have a pact that we will honestly tell each other if and when one of us begins to venture down paths of destruction that should be obvious, but aren’t (the pact also involves a swift and decisive kick in the… well, you know!).  It is good to have such a friend and brother in Christ, who serves as a safeguard against the “seemeth right.”

     I’d suggest that we all seek someone to serve this purpose of protection and correction in our lives.  We need godly friends who encourage, illuminate, and yes, who “kick us in the you know,” if necessary.   Our own study of Scripture and life of prayer may provide the primary fortification against deception.  However, we also require God’s provision of faithful companions who journey with us along the path of righteousness.  They see pitfalls and obstacles that our own eyes easily miss because of fleshly inclinations.  By definition, “the ways of death” are deadly, and the fellow believer who walks with us may well keep us from falling into a dangerous precipice.

    Yes, indeed, Lord, save us from the seemeth right!  He will, especially as we avail ourselves of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of saints who love us enough to tell us firmly and forthrightly when we blithely wander upon byways of destruction.  I’m grateful for Mike, Sterling, and so many of you, who through the years have wielded a correcting word (and/or foot!) when I’ve needed it.  Keep talking, and keep kicking! J

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend!”
(Proverbs 27:6)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Reporting For Duty!"

    As each day begins, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have the privilege of approaching God with the same expression of submission voiced by the soldier to His commanding officer: “Private Jones, reporting for duty, Sir!”

     The prophet said it this way: “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).  However we express it, the sentiment involves our acknowledgement of Whose we are, and who we are.  We belong to God for His glory, will, and eternal purpose in Christ.  We do so, however, not merely as subordinates, but as beloved sons and daughters.  Our “officer” is our Father whose governance flows from love.  His assignments therefore involve our best interests, as well as the glory of His Son and the blessing of others through us.  Regardless of the sacrifice that may be required to accomplish the tasks assigned, we can therefore be sure that the fulfilling of our hearts awaits us in the fulfilling of God’s will in this and in every day.  “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).

    Temporary pleasures may accompany the fulfilling of fleshly dreams and desires (Hebrews 11:25).  Permanent, eternally permanent joy awaits the doing of God’s will through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit (I Timothy 4:8).  The bells of our heart peal only when faith and faithfulness characterize our steps, and when we report for the duty of delight assigned by the Captain of our salvation.  “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

“Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"With Joyfulness and Gladness”

     God pronounced one of His most severe chastenings upon Israel because His chosen earthly people “servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

    No genuine experience of God exists that merely involves heartless fulfillment of duty and obedience.  “Joyfulness” and “gladness of heart” must accompany faithfulness, even as the Apostle Paul wrote from a Roman prison, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

     This presents a great challenge in a world that so often brings trouble, disappointment, loss, pain and sorrow to our doorstep.  “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).  Paul himself often testified of “deaths oft,” meaning that he experienced the full gamut of trials, tribulations, heartaches and heartbreaks.  Nevertheless, the man of God knew a prevailing and pervasive joy in midst of grief – “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (II Corinthians 11:23-33; 6:10).  How was this possible for Paul?  Moreover, how is it possible for you and for me?

     We return to God’s chastening pronouncement upon Israel, and in particular, His indictment that His people forgot or ignored “the abundance of all things.”  Rather than remembering and affirming their Lord’s generous and undeserved blessing, Israel focused on the apparent lack that confronted them in the moment.  As the saying goes, “What have You done for us lately, Lord?”  Such ignorance and ingratitude sapped the Jews’ joy, and led to God’s approbation and discipline.

     Been there.  Done that.  Having been freely and undeservedly blessed with a lifetime of ongoing reception of “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” I still too often fix my attention on difficulties and discomforts of the moment.  The experience of God’s joy flies out the window when this happens, requiring the Holy Spirit and Frances (as well as many of you) to wake me up in the remembrance of “the abundance of all things.”  As I’ve often told the Lord in times of clarity, “If You never blessed me again, I’d still be in Your debt for a million eternities!”  I would, and even as I write these words, I shake my head in sad bewilderment that I can still be so often dense and forgetful.

    I also, however, rejoice.  Indeed, a large portion of God’s abundance and unsearchable riches involves His merciful patience and forgiveness.  I may not have thankfully and gladly rejoiced a minute ago.  But I can in this moment!  The redeeming power of Christ’s blood and Spirit makes possible new beginnings of joy whenever we awaken to the remembrance of how blessed we are.  No challenge we face begins to approach such gracious beneficence, given from the moment of our conception until forevermore.  Yes, trouble’s coming, and is already here.  However, it bows before the presence and provision of Christ in those who remember and affirm “with joyfulness of heart, and with gladness for the abundance of all things.”

“He shall see His face with joy.”
(Job 33:26)