Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Jackson Chronicles Part 7 Good To Be Reminded

(Another installment in the ongoing saga of our grandson Jackson's uncanny ability to provide insights into God's way in our lives, as provided by a five year old. This segment also provides somewhat of an addendum and illustration to our series of several weeks ago titled "Love and Fear").

Our grandchildren, Jackson (5) and Emma (4) stayed with us this past weekend. As Frances and I left the house yesterday, she told Jackson (who had had several episodes of less than optimum behavior) to be sure he behaved while our daughters watched him. "If not," his grandmother warned, "I'll have to give you an attitude adjustment when I get home, Jack." She explained that by this, she meant a spanking.

I chimed in, "That's right, Jack, but I'm sure we won't have to worry about that, will we?"

Jackson thought for a moment. "No sir," he responded, and then added, thoughtfully, "But it's good have a reminder."

The Bible provides numerous "reminders" of our Father's great love for us, as expressed in His willingness to "chasten" and "scourge" us when necessary (Hebrews 12:6).

"I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you" (I Corinthians 4:14).

In a generation of pop Christendom wherein we are strongly tempted not to offend each other or the world, the notion of warning as a primary aspect of Divine love does not always adequately inform our communication of God's truth. The writers of the New Testament, however, never hesitated in counseling unbelievers to "flee from the wrath to come." Nor did they shy away from urging believers to remember that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Luke 3:7; Hebrews 10:31). Indeed, in our present existence, Truth always bears a necessary barb and thorn for the purpose of ensuring choices of faith that are more than merely sentimental responses to pleasant thoughts. Yes, it's good to have a reminder, as Jackson would say, and it's good to lovingly serve as a voice of reminder to believer and unbeliever alike.

"But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
(Hebrews 3:13)
"I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of those things, though ye know them and be established in the present truth."
(II Peter 1:12)

Monday, January 30, 2012

"The Light of Himself"

"Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous" (Psalm 112:4).

The Psalmist personalizes the Divine illumination that meets us in darkness: "He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." This perfectly accords with the New Testament declaration by our Lord Jesus Christ: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).

In trouble and challenge, God does not always immediately supply outward help or solutions. He rather has us walk through the darkness with seemingly little more than the fact of His presence, and our response of faith. We know He is with us, and we believe accordingly. The hand of our Heavenly Father, however, seems still. As did David, perhaps we cry, "Arise, O Lord, O God, lift up Thine hand: forget not the humble" (Psalm 10:12). Still, He seems to do little or nothing to relieve our pains and problems.

In such times, we can be sure that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. God's doings transcend our understanding, and we shall likely discover one day that when He seemed most at rest, our Lord was actually most active on our behalf. Indeed, when no outward aid arrives, the Holy Spirit doubtless works within us as we trust God, emphasizing the far more vital matter of the heart. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). When we cannot see His hand, the opportunity to know God's heart lies blessedly before us. Nothing could be more important, and no greater expression of love could our Heavenly Father bestow upon us than this opportunity to know not merely His way, but Himself.

In the Genesis account of creation, light existed in the world before the sun, the moon and the stars were made (Genesis 1:3; 14). Christ Himself likely supplied this illumination when no vehicles for light were yet formed. The same reality will often grace our hearts, although it likely will not feel like or seem to be grace. Yes, the light of God may most envelope us in sunless days and moonless, starless nights, the light of Himself revealed most purely, most surely, and most dynamically in the most important part of our being.

"The light shineth in darkness."
(John 1:5)

Friday, January 27, 2012

"A Clear Conscience"

"I have a clear conscience because I know I did the right thing." We've all thought it or said it in one way or another, and it is doubtless true that doing what we believe to be the right thing helps to keep our hearts free of guilt.
However, the primary basis for a clear conscience rests not on what we do or do not do, but rather on what someone else did and does for us.
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?... Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22).
A stained conscience results in countless spiritual, moral, mental, emotional and even physical pathologies. Only the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can enter into the depths of our hearts to cleanse us of the internal consequences of sin. Again, a clear conscience primarily depends on His doings rather than our own. The more we understand the Biblical revelation of our Lord's atoning work on our behalf, the more we will experience the peace of God in our hearts that assures us of full forgiveness, cleansing, and the wonder of being "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).
Upon this basis of grace, we go forth to act in a manner far more conducive with a clear conscience. "We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly" (Hebrews 13:18). Such experience is fruit, however, and must never be confused with the root of Christ's justifying work on our behalf. Thus, our joyous declaration becomes, "I have a clear conscience because I know He did the right thing!" Our own proper doings flow from this gift of a cleansed inner temple that leads to a life reflective of the presence and work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Romans 5:1)

"A Clear Conscience"

"I have a clear conscience because I know I did the right thing." We've all thought it or said it in one way or another, and it is doubtless true that doing what we believe to be the right thing helps to keep our hearts free of guilt.

However, the primary basis for a clear conscience rests not on what we do or do not do, but rather on what someone else did and does for us.

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?... Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22).

A stained conscience results in countless spiritual, moral, mental, emotional and even physical pathologies. Only the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can enter into the depths of our hearts to cleanse us of the internal consequences of sin. Again, a clear conscience primarily depends on His doings rather than our own. The more we understand the Biblical revelation of our Lord's atoning work on our behalf, the more we will experience the peace of God in our hearts that assures us of full forgiveness, cleansing, and the wonder of being "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

Upon this basis of grace, we go forth to act in a manner far more conducive with a clear conscience. "We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly" (Hebrews 13:18). Such experience is fruit, however, and must never be confused with the root of Christ's justifying work on our behalf. Thus, our joyous declaration becomes, "I have a clear conscience because I know He did the right thing!" Our own proper doings flow from this gift of a cleansed inner temple that leads to a life reflective of the presence and work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Romans 5:1)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Glance, the Gaze

I saw a bumper sticker on a car the other day that both amused and saddened me.

"Since I can't be a good example, I'll serve as a horrible warning."

The quip actually speaks to a profound Biblical teaching, namely, that every person in God's universe serves Him in revealing Truth, whether in positive or negative terms.

"Ye are the light of the world... There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (Matthew 5:14; I Corinthians 11:19).

We cannot escape the truth that "in Him, we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Nor can we avoid the reality that our Heavenly Father "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11). We therefore serve to either reveal God by being a "vessel of mercy" through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, or a "vessel of wrath" because we do not believe (Romans 9:22-23). Indeed, we'll either be a good example, or a horrible warning.

The machinations and movings of unbelievers greatly disturb us, and influence our lives. However, the purposeful working of God determines our lives as we trust in the Lord Jesus with hearts of devoted submission. We live according to His environment, His economy, and His eternal purpose in Christ. Thus, we glance at the world's influence, recognizing that its winds will sometimes ruffle our hair and perhaps even blow a shingle off our roof, as God allows. Our gaze, however, is fixed upon the heart and hand of God who coordinates all things in our lives for the good of conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Nothing approaches born again believers in the Lord Jesus that has not been determined or allowed by God. Every moment is foreseen, and Divine plans are already formed to deal with every contingency. Thus, whatever comes to us through the world, the devil and the flesh arrives as the unwitting servant of the God wise enough to work all things together for our best interests.

In both time and eternity, creation rests safely in the providence of God. As do our lives, wherein both the just and the unjust have their place in our Heavenly Father's good purposes. May our necessary glances at the world in which we live lead to the gaze fixed upon the Heart that assures us, and the Hand that secures us...

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon Thee, because He trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


(Thanks to my dear friend and brother in Christ, Larry Voas, for the story, and the inspiration.)

Dwight L. Moody, the 19th century evangelist, once had a discussion with a Mormon missionary during a long train ride. At the conclusion of their theological consideration, Moody told the man their differences could be summed up by the letters, n - e. "You believe that salvation is a matter of "Do," said Moody. "I believe that it is a matter of "Done."

"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12).

Throughout its pages, the New Testament confirms Moody's bold affirmation of a salvation too great for sinners to ever earn or accomplish. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ purchased our redemption for us, at the cost of His own life. Indeed, any notion that adds effort of our own to receive or maintain salvation besmirches the atoning work of the Lord Jesus and the salvation thrice referred to in the book of Romans as a "free gift" (Romans 5:15; 16; 18).

We live from "Done." We do from "Done." Our works, if spiritually genuine, are always the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Himself freely given to us as Christ's gift of grace (Luke 11:13). We do not work to our salvation, but from it. It could be no other way, because the standards of God are too high for our attainment - "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). The Lord Jesus therefore did for us - and does for us - that which we could never do. He died as our Sin-bearer. He rose again as our newness of life, and life-giver. And He ascended into the heavenlies as our great High Priest, who "ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).

The more our hearts and minds receive this light of freely given grace, the more they are motivated and empowered to love God in a manner that befits the grace He gives. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). In the very moment, however, that "Do" fails to be understood in the light of "Done," we stand upon the precipice of sin and failure. Commands viewed apart outside the dynamic context of grace actually stimulate sin in us - "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (fleshly desire)" (Romans 7:8). Therefore, we must heed the admonition of the writer of Hebrews, who declares that only God's freely given gift in Christ provides both the fact of our salvation, and the fruit thereof...

"Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear."
(Hebrews 12:28)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"The Worship of Nothing"

I recently heard several scientists discussing brain function, particularly the brain's ability to adapt to genetic deficits in a manner that often results in those impaired nevertheless being able to accomplish amazing things. Included in the discussion was one such man, an artist who has overcome severe physical liabilities to become renowned in his field. When asked about his achievements, he replied,

"If I believed in God, I would say that it is a kind and wonderful thing that He gave the brain ability to mitigate such weaknesses. I don't believe in God, however, so I would say that it is even more amazing that Nature gave us such ability."

I'm not sure I've ever heard a more fascinating (or sadder) statement. The artist's statement expresses the notion that a mindless and soulless process of creation fosters more thrilling wonder than the consideration of a personal God as Creator. The Apostle Paul plainly referenced such absurdity in His epistle to the Romans:

"They... worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Romans 1:22; 25).

The man literally spoke in worshipful terms and tone regarding his belief that the complexity of the human brain evolved by the forces and chance happenings of a "nature" that itself possesses no capacity for thought, emotion or planning. Those who hold to this notion believe that an unconscious nothingness produced a something aware of itself, with the ability to consider, affect, and adapt to its own existence. And, those who think much about such things religiously love and worship the nothingness.

Or do they? The truth of the matter is that these sad, darkened hearts do actually worship something. They worship a lie that enables them, for now, to largely ignore the great fact of their existence. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). At the heart of all atheism and agnosticism lies moral escape rather than mental evaluation. The intellect does not foster unbelief in God, but rather the heart that desires to do things Truth will not allow. For such ones, nothingness is indeed a kind and gracious deity because it demands nothing of its adherents - except the forfeiture of reason, reality, and ultimately, the soul.

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good."
(Psalm 14:1)

Monday, January 23, 2012

"I Get To!"

When the will of God is recognized and affirmed as "I get to" rather than "I have to," life becomes life.

"Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments; for therein do I delight" (Psalm 119:35).

This truth often appears and feels contrary to our inclinations. The desires of our flesh lust against the working of the Holy Spirit within us "to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Galatians 5:17; Philippians 2:13). Our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations often seem to guide us down a slippery rail of descent into unbelief and disobedience. Conversely, faith and obedience to God seem to loom over us as a summit too high to ascend. "I get to" feels far more related to the works of the flesh, and "I have to" far more the challenge of walking in the Spirit.

Herein lies one of the important and elemental aspects of Truth for every believer. What is our deepest and truest desire? What is our "I get to?" The Bible definitively answers the question in the words and experience of the Psalmist (referenced above), and the Apostle Paul: "With the mind, I myself serve the law of God... I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22; 25). The Psalmist, of course, had a limited experience of this truth because he did not possess the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit given to believers after the atoning work and resurrection of Christ. He nevertheless experienced a partial blessedness of delight available even to the saints of the Old Testament who knew God.

Paul, however, knew in far greater measure the truth every born again believer must realize, namely, that the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in us infuses the very delight of the Lord Jesus for obedience to God as our delight. Again, "He worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Do we believe this truth of God's heart-changing presence, purchased for us at so great a cost? Is God really that near, that active, that motivating, and that gracious to provide such internal grace? No reading of the New Testament can provide any answer than an emphatic "Yes!" Thus, "I get to " must become the first response to the will of God, be it the seemingly small matters of the day, or if God should will, the martyr's pyre.

Of the martyrs, all, if they could speak to us, would emphatically confess that their dedication and devotion did not empower the sacrifice of their lives for the glory of the Lord Jesus. No, the martyr's crown will doubtless one day be cast at the feet of the Savior no less than any other. Because as a free gift of grace, God worked in the martyrs of the church to view their sacrifice as "I get to." Indeed, they knew and believed in the power of delight, Christ's delight, moving within the depths of their being to enable the giving of their lives for their Lord's honor. May we do the same, viewing every command of the Word of God, and every God-ordained responsibility of life, according to the grace of "I get to!"

"When they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."
(Acts 5:40-41)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Meeting of the Twain

    The spiritual, moral and substantive difference between God and man requires that there be a mediator who bridges the gap between us.
    "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1).
     The God who is man and the man who is God spans the vast gulf between Divinity and humanity, both in Himself, and for the benefit of the parties who seemingly could never unite.  "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (II Timothy 3:16).  Apart from such gracious condescension, "never the twain shall meet," as it were.  And never will we have any other hope and assurance for relationship with God save in the high priestly and mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).
    When the wrath of God seemingly must be poured forth upon a wayward humanity, the Lord Jesus enters the picture to vicariously bear such wrath for us.  "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (I Peter 3:18).  When man has no interest in God, the Lord Jesus reveals the Divine heart and sends forth the Holy Spirit to convince and convict us of our need for the Divine.  "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32).  Christ alone provides hope forevermore that God and man shall unite in a permanent union of love whereby both hearts rejoice in each other despite seemingly irreconcilable issues.
    Never have we so failingly sinned that we cannot come to God, so long as we come by way of the person and work of Christ on our behalf.  And never have we so faithfully served that we can come to God in any other way than the person and work of Christ on our behalf.  He is our High Priest, our mediator, our bond of peace, and the One who "ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).  Yes, in the Lord Jesus, God and man unite in the miracle of Christ's own personhood, and in the mercy of living relationship between "twain" who seemingly should "never shall meet," but who find in Christ a union of loving devotion that endures forever - and in this moment.
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 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 4:14-16)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Fount of Faith"

    Both godliness and sin flow from the fount of faith.  That is, we trust God and walk in His will, or we trust somebody else and disobey.
    "Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right... As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 119:28; II Samuel 22:31).
    When we sin, we succumb to the temptation that suggests the precepts and ways of God are not right and perfect.  We may not consciously realize our trust in dust rather than the Divine, but all unrighteousness flows from the unholy fount of disbelieving God.  In the lives of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, this makes sin a very personal matter, and one that should grieve our hearts as we realize we have yielded to the notion that God's precepts are not right, nor are His ways perfect.
    Most importantly, we distrust our Heavenly Father's heart when we disbelieve and disobey Him.  From the beginning, Satan tempted the human race to believe that God unjustly withholds good things from us.  "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 3:5).  Eve succumbed through deception to this lie, and then Adam willfully embraced the dark notion that God cannot be trusted (I Timothy 2:14).  Humanity fell into the throes of a natural inclination to question and doubt the only Heart worthy of trust, even as Adam's first actions after sinning involved hiding in the trees because He was afraid of God (Genesis 3:10).
    Conversely, godly attitudes, words, and actions originate deep within us as we trust God and submit unto Him in devoted confidence. Salvation in Christ, both in reception and the outworking thereof, are matters of faith.  When we believe in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit births us into an existence of trust wherein we come forth from the darkness of our Adamic inclination to unbelief.  Deep in our spirits, the light of God shines upon the heart of God, revealing His perfect trustworthiness and faithfulness.  We begin a life of faith as the Holy Spirit works in us to believe rather than disbelieve.  All true godliness proceeds from this dynamic working of grace, as received by faith.  "The just shall live by faith... This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (Romans 1:17; I John 5:4).  Thus, obedience to God originates deep within us as we remember His heart, and determine to believe that "His way is perfect."
    Rather than cold, sterile ritualism, the Christian life blesses us with the most personal of all relationships.  We seek to "grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" in order that we may more and more trust the heart of our Heavenly Father (II Peter 3:18).  Subsequently, the more we truly know Him, the more we will trust Him.  The more we trust Him, the more we will obey Him.  And the more we obey Him, the more we discover the faithful heart and perfect way of God.  We live by faith because thereby we live in reality, the reality that draws us further and further into the love of Christ, and further and further into conformity to His spiritual and moral likeness.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good."
(Psalm 37:3)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Love and Fear" Conclusion

     If God did not command us to fear Him, and if He did not act in a manner to be feared, we would indeed find ourselves in a frightful existence of uncertainty and insecurity.
     "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
    True parental affection expresses itself as necessary in faithful parental affliction.  Any love that bears no willingness to chasten as well as to caress is no love at all, but is rather a sentimentality that actually originates in selfishness.  Applying the discipline of pain and loss to those whom you love is not pleasant, as any caring human parent well knows.  How much easier it is to bless with the caress rather than chasten with the rod.  But how necessary that a father or mother emphasize the true need of their child rather than their momentary pleasure.  In fact, failure to do so involves an act of tacit hatred, and the treating of the child as if he were not a true offspring.  "He that spareth his rod hateth his son...  If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons" (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:8).
    Our backsides, as it were, may not relish the fear of God's rod.  But deep within the spirit of the born again believer, we know that our Heavenly Father's willingness to enact discipline tells of His affection and devotion no less than His tendermercies.  The love of God, the perfect love of God, assures our hearts that our Lord will sacrifice His parental yearning to administer pleasant things if our truest need requires painful things.   This is a fact about God to be feared.  Yes, we fear His love.  But in the necessary trepidation, a blessed peace comes to us with the realization of how much we are actually cherished by the Father whose caress and chastening both reveal the most important reality of our existence...
"I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
(Jeremiah 31:3)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 7

    To fear love, especially God's love, seems counterintuitive.   Especially in our generation, the definition of love has been so distorted and diluted that thinking rightly about the matter requires much prayerful consideration of Biblical teaching.  As a good friend often suggests, many believers view the Lord as little more than "a kindly grandfather, who just wants the children to be happy."  
     This is not the God of the Bible.  He is kindly, of course, and He does desire our happiness in the best and most Biblical sense of the term.  However, our Heavenly Father is not guided by sentiment, but rather by character, nature, wisdom and His eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, from God we will always receive that which in our best interests, even if this involves great pain and loss.  Love meets need before it fulfills desire, and when our need involves chastening and scourging, we must expect our Lord to suspend our present happiness for the greater good of permanent holiness.
    This is a love to be feared, as the Bible so often commands, and a love to be included in our understanding of God and His working in our lives.  We wouldn't want Him to act in any other way because in our present existence, the wise believer recognizes his great need for the tempering influence of the truth that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (a warning written not to and about unbelievers, but rather to and about born again Christians - Hebrews 10:30-31).  No less than the Apostle Paul confessed that "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18).  Left to ourselves, believers are capable of grievous sin because the potential for unbelief and disobedience remains with us throughout our earthly lifetime.  Therefore, our Heavenly Father does not leave us to ourselves, but rather uses every tool at His disposal to lovingly direct our feet along the path of righteousness.  This includes the rod of correction, wielded by that aspect of Divine love which must be feared.
     As we have mentioned, Scripture declares that a genuine experience of God's grace in the Lord Jesus leads not only to proper rest and rejoicing, but also to proper "reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).  We need both sensibilities in our understanding of God's perfect way in our lives, and in the recognition of His devotion to our greatest and highest good.  Any understanding of love that does not include fear is not a Biblical understanding at all, but rather a human invention at best, or a devilish deception at worst.  
"But as for me, I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy, and in Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy temple."
(Psalm 5:7)

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 6

    Doubtless the God so minutely interested in our lives - "the very hairs of your head are all numbered" - precisely molds and measures His disciplinary actions in the lives of His trusting children in Christ (Matthew 10:30).
    Paul was not Peter.  Peter was not John.  John was not James, and James was not Andrew.  Indeed, it would have been interesting to see the different ways the Lord Jesus Christ related to each of His disciples.  Differing personalities, histories, interests and ways of responding to life would have required the Savior to act and react to His closest followers in ways that particularly met each need.  
    "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee?  Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  Follow thou Me" (John 21:20-22).
    Regarding the chastening and scourging promised by God to those whom He loves, the principle of the personal surely applies.  Every believer will require disciplinary action - He "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).  The means of such chastening, however, is at the discretion of the Father who sees each of us perfectly, and who thus knows how to apply the rod in the most effective manner.  Every arena of life and experience provides the opportunity for Divine love, as expressed in God's gracious willingness to apply pain and loss as a corrective measure.
     As we have stressed repeatedly, not all difficulty results from our being chastened by God.  Some does, however, and we must be open to the possibility that our challenges, in whatever form, may involve correction and reproof.  Awareness of the possibility, along with the prayerful attitude of willingness to be corrected, will go far in opening our eyes to those times when our Father lovingly wields the rod, not against us, but for us.
"Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, o Lord."
(Psalm 94:12)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 5

     God's chastening administers hurt and loss to His trusting sons and daughters in Christ as needed, and according to His abounding love for us.
     "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).
    The scourge, or whip, of ancient times inflicted pain and removed flesh.  In the hands of civil authorities, the scourge primarily administered punitive measures for the purpose of justice and the reordering of behavior by fear.  Conversely, the loving parent wielded the whip to change behavior, but according to love and fear.  As we have referenced, the child knows deep within that His parents love him when they are willing not only to tenderly caress, but also to painfully chasten.  The scourge effected this disciplinary discomfort and security-fostering assurance of parental love. 
    The writer of Hebrews declares that God "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."  This raises the question, How does He scourge, or whip, us?   In what manner does He lovingly administer pain and the loss of flesh since we do not physically see or feel the whip?   
     The writers of the New Testament did not spend a great deal of time answering this question for us.  However, the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians does provide some light.
     "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Corinthians 11:28-32).
    The Corinthians disrespected the ordinance of the Lord's supper, transforming it from a reverent remembrance of Christ's death into a gluttonous and drunken display of selfishness (I Corinthians 11:20-22).  Paul thus declares that many of the Corinthians had been chastened and scourged with weakness, sickness, and even death.   The Apostle assures that these believers would not be "condemned with the world," but they were whipped with the wayward.  Accordingly, we can know that God's scourging of His beloved children can include weakness, sickness and death.
    Of course, this does not mean that all of such experience occurs as a result of God's chastening.  Our Heavenly Father determines and allows our physical challenges for a variety of reasons, all devoted to our personal sanctification and capacity to minister to others.  However, the consecrated Christian must consider the possibility that physical ailment may involve the Lord's scourge.  Prayerfully and humbly seeking His light in times of weakness and sickness is therefore the proper response.  "Heavenly Father, if this challenge bears the corrective scourge of Your hand, I trust You to show me, and to administer Your chastening accordingly.  If not, I also trust You to assure my heart, and lead me to continue in faith and obedience."
    In modern times, we seek the source of weakness, sickness and death solely in terms of the natural.  Certainly the physical order of things, as ordained by God, plays a great role in our experience of bodily challenges.  This is not the entire picture, however, and we do well to acknowledge the spiritual possibility of God's love, His loving chastening, being the reason for some physical liabilities.  Failure to do so ignores and denies the clear teaching of Scripture, and makes less likely the correction our Lord intends to effect when He wields the scourge in our lives.  
"Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him."
(Hebrews 12:5)

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 4

The nature of God's chastening in the lives of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ presents a great challenge to our understanding and interpretation.

Unlike the discipline of human parents or authorities, our Heavenly Father's rod does not visibly or audibly identify itself for what it is. How, therefore, do we know we are being chastened by God? This question requires much Biblical consideration because not all negative experience in our lives occurs as the result of our Father's discipline. Believers experience pain and loss for a variety of reasons according to Scripture. We live in fallen world of trouble and difficulty. People sometimes treat us unjustly and painfully. Our spiritual enemies are often allowed a lengthened leash to inflict trouble upon us. We suffer in order to identify with others, and to be prepared to minister to them. And yes, we do sometimes hurt and lose because God administers His loving rod as a corrective measure. How then can we know and recognize that the troubles we face are in fact the discipline of God?

Maintaining a heart aware of the possibility introduces the Bible's answer to this vital question. When trouble comes, we must consider that the rod of correction may be the cause of whatever difficulty we face. It also may not, and let us again emphasize that not all pain and loss in our lives occurs as as the result of God's chastening. But some does, and failure to consider the possibility may keep us from experiencing the correction our Father intends to accomplish. Conversely, being open to the possibility makes it far more likely we will know the nature of our challenges.

In light of this acknowledgement, we proceed to prayerful communication with our Lord about the troubles we face. "Father, if this difficulty be your chastening, I want it to have the directing and re-directing influence it is intended to have. Therefore, as David prayed, Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). Such honest and open determination to submit ourselves to God's perfect way leads to the strong possibility that we will know if we are indeed hurting in order to be reproved and restored.

Still, we will hear no voice or see no visible evidence of God's rod. However, by His Word, His Spirit, and His church, our Heavenly Father will doubtless illuminate us to both His chastening, and the reason for it as we humble ourselves before Him. The matter primarily involves awareness and attitude more than the technical aspect of how we will recognize chastening. As we better understand the Bible's plain teaching in this vital matter, and humbly submit ourselves thereunto, we will know when our Father's love administers His corrective rod...

"If any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine."
(John 7:17)
"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of His correction: for whom the LORD loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom He delighteth."
(Proverbs 3:11-12)

Tomorrow: the nature of God's correction continued; how He corrects

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 3

In the immediate moment, children do not desire or welcome chastening. Deep within their hearts, however, they long for the security fostered by the parent who loves his child enough to enact discipline as necessary. Thus, the child reared without chastening may for a time like his father or mother who spare the rod. But he will never truly love or respect the parent who fails to protect him from the dangers imposed by his own waywardness.

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).

In similar manner, it would be impossible to love God if we did not realize and fear His willingness to chasten and scourge us. A weak and overly tolerant Heavenly Father would be no real father at all, and certainly one we could not respect. Scripture clearly states that Divine love inflicts loss and pain when necessary - "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Conversely, failure to discipline would actually involve a tacit hatred - "he that spareth his rod hateth his son" (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 13:24). Properly understanding this Biblical definition of genuine love reconciles the fear of God with the lovingkindness of God. The latter may certainly bless us with a more pleasant contemplation and expectation of blessing. But the Scripturally astute mind understands the rightness of the former, and the necessity of its tempering influence.

The born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who recognizes with the Apostle Paul that "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" understands the place for both lovingkindness and fear in our spiritual understanding of God (Romans 7:18). Much of our Christian life involves motivation as fostered by our amazed discovery of the affectionate tendermercies that fill the heart of God for us. The fleshly inclinations for sin that remain in us, however, also make necessary the rod of God, and as importantly, the clear awareness that our Shepherd will perform His discipline as required. The New Testament declares this fullness of love no less than does the Old, and in fact, the writer of Hebrews plainly states the direct relationship of grace and fear:

"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).

If we are genuinely having grace, the fear of God will be found mong the blessed fruits of such experience. We presently require this awareness and sensibility, and our Heavenly Father loves us enough to ensure that the need is supplied.

"What doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."
(Deuteronomy 10:12)

Tomorrow: the nature of God's chastening

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 2

Our working definition of love - the affectionate and passionate devotion to the well being of others, at cost to one's own self - opens our door of understanding as to how the love of God and the fear of God unite to form the proper Biblical response to our Lord.

Love creates in us emotions and sensations of sentimentality. We feel warmly toward those whom we love, desiring to bless them with tenderness, kindness and the gentle caress of affection. This is appropriate, and the Bible commands believers to "be kindly affectioned one to another" (Romans 12:10). There is no notion in Scripture of a dour and joyless relating to each other, and warm sentiments of affection infuse God's love for us, just as they must infuse our love for each other.

However, mere sentimentality alone does not form the fullness of loving devotion. True love, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, includes not only the gentle caress, but also the firm and forthright hand of truth, chastening and discipline. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" declared Solomon, revealing that loving devotion inflicts as well as inspires (Proverbs 27:6). An element of accountability, and yes, of fear, will always grace any genuinely loving relationship. Be it brother, or friend, or colleague, or God, the one who loves must bear the sword that will wound us when necessary. Such times will bring pain, and will at the outset involve an unpleasantry of which we should rightly be afraid, although in principle we may agree with the necessity of "the wounds of a friend."

There is no way to say it, but to say it: God, the great Friend of our souls and Father of trusting hearts, loves us enough to hurt us, and to hurt us grievously when necessary. He "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth," and if we know anything about "scourging" as practiced in Biblical times, we realize that the Biblical usage of the term forebodes of much pain and loss (Hebrews 12:6). Does God take pleasure in such chastening? Surely not, but the true friend always emphasizes purpose rather than pleasure. Our Heavenly Father loves us by His determination to administer to our needs before our desires. This is vital, because the difficult truth of our present existence is that there are times when we need pain - "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy Word" (Psalm 119:67).

Wise is the believer who fears this love of God willing to bestow affliction as well as affection. We wouldn't want Him to act in any other way, but let us be aware that in times of chastening and scourging, we won't readily welcome the loving rod upon our backs. Regardless of how well we know in doctrine and principle that God chastens us for our benefit, the immediate experience of His rod will not elicit affirmations of principle, but rather cries of sorrow and pain. "Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thine hand presseth me sore... I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long" (Psalm 38:2; 6). Certainly we must proceed to acceptance and faith, as did David: "For in Thee, o Lord, do I hope. Thou wilt hear, o Lord my God" (Psalm 38:6). But first we feel the necessary and corrective point of the arrow, and force of the hand.

God's love no less graces us in affliction than in affection. This is a blessed truth for which to be grateful. But it is also a blessed truth to fear. Indeed, the primary point of a Biblical consideration of love and fear is that the love of God should be feared as well as cherished. Our Father truly loves us, and thus, He always acts in accordance with our deepest need. This truth provides a blessed security and peace as we rightly understand the Bible's teaching. In our next message, we will consider the firm foundation provided by the love of God, as revealed in the fear of God.

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
(Proverbs 13:24)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 1

We begin our consideration of love and fear by defining the terms in accordance with Scripture. First, love is so broad a Biblical issue that admittedly, we risk oversimplification by seeking to offer any definition. However, it can be said that both the essence and expression of Scripturally declared love reveals affectionate and impassioned devotion and commitment to the well being of others, including if necessary, great sacrifice on the part of the one who loves. "God is love" (I John 4:8; 16), and throughout the Bible, His character of unselfish consecration to His creation shines forth as the spiritual and moral content of His heart, and the ongoing way of His hands (we might add to confirm, His "nail-scarred" hands).

"Fear" is also an interesting Biblical issue. When I first became a believer in 1975, much of Christendom was beginning the unfortunate practice of seeking to attract unbelievers (and hold on to nominal Christians) by accommodation rather then honest affirmation of God's truth. Sadly, the notion of being "friendly to seekers," as it were, included far more than a proper attitude of lovingkindness and graciousness. Biblical terms and language long settled by skilled linguistic scholars were redefined so as not to offend.

"Fear" was one of those words that fellow under the accommodator's knife, particularly as related to the fear of God. I recall hearing many teachers and reading many authors who proposed that fear, as taught in Scripture, did not mean fright, or terror, or being afraid, as we usually define the term. The proponents of this notion rather declared that Biblical fear meant "reverential awe, or wonder." For years I thought this to be the case, again, because respected teachers and authors so often seemed to make the claim.

The notion was not true. Indeed, any reliable Hebrew or Greek lexicon of ancient languages defines fear in both Old Testament and New as far more than reverent awe. The Biblical meaning primarily includes terror, dread and being afraid, the usual understanding of the word fear. Certainly awe and wonder may be included in the definition, but this meaning is not primary. The Greek root most often used in the New Testament, for example, is "phobos," from which we derive our term phobia (meaning, of course, that which makes us afraid). Therefore, when we consider the Bible's frequent commands to "fear the Lord," we must accept the fact that a place for terror, dread and being afraid must be found in our interpretation and response to God's truth.

As we proposed in our introduction, no greater challenge of Scriptural understanding exists than the necessity of including both love and fear in our doctrinal system of belief. We are commanded to fear One who is, again, affectionately and passionately devoted to our well being, and who sacrificed to the utmost in order to meet our deepest need. How do we begin to understand and reconcile such an enigma? We will continue our consideration in part 2 of this series of messages.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.... For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, "
(II Corinthians 5:10-11; 14-15)

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Love and Fear" Introduction

Today we begin a consideration of one of the most challenging doctrinal and philosophical issues of the Christian faith, namely the Scriptural revelation that the love of God and the fear of God must concurrently reside in the sensibilities of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"O love the Lord, all ye His saints... O fear the Lord, ye His saints (Psalm 31:23; Psalm 34:9).

At the outset, let us propose that no conflict whatsoever exists in the nature, heart and mind of God regarding these characteristics of His being. All Divine qualities exist in pristine and perfect harmony with one another. His grace and His wrath, for example, are branches of the same wondrous tree, a union we will easily recognize with our perfected understanding in Heaven. At present, however, we find it difficult to reconcile this seeming enigma unless we seek understanding and reconciliation solely in the pages of the Bible. Indeed, a thorough consideration of the Word of God can lead us to the beginning of a comfortable acknowledgement of both the tenderness and terror of our wonderful Lord.

For now, let us accept the plain truth of Scripture: to genuinely know God involves both love and fear. Both Old Testament and New continually call us to rejoice in the tenderness of His hand, and to dread the terror of His corrective rod (if we believe) or His flaming sword (if we do not believe). As we gladly emphasize the former, we cannot failure to reverently acknowledge the latter. In fact, if we rightly understand the fear of God, we shall see that His love comprises the very reason we must fear Him.

If we grow in the true and Biblical fear of God, we shall more love and cherish Him. This may seem counterintuitive, and certainly to faulty human reasoning, it is. As we proceed, however, we will discover from the pages of Scripture that our Heavenly Father's great love for us inevitably leads to a proper and healthy trepidation that accomplishes great things in the trusting heart. Indeed, consideration of the Bible's teaching regarding love and fear graces us with a sanctifying experience that blesses our hearts with a greater security and peace as it reveals the sublime devotion of God to our well-being. Again, growth in the fear of God leads to growth in the love of God. May our Father leader us in this vital contemplation.

"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
(Hebrew 12:28)

Friday, January 6, 2012

"The Place of Prayer"

"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father... But 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" (John 4:19-21; 23).

Since born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ direct our prayers to "our Father, which art in Heaven," there are no places of prayer upon the earth more sacred than any other (Matthew 6:9). Through Christ, we can pray any and everywhere, although it is true that we may have special and personal venues where we especially enjoy communion with God. This is fine so long as we don't view our prayers as more spiritual or devoted because they are prayed from supposedly "holy" sites. Doubtless many genuine supplications ascend to Heaven from jail cells, while many prayers ritualistically and insincerely offered in churches never penetrate the ceiling of the sanctuary.

As mentioned in a previous consideration, true prayer involves reality, and thus, heart. The heart of God calls to the heart of man, calling us to seek Him in humility, faith, deliberation, and most of all, in love. "Where?" is not the issue of prayer. "Why?" far more comprises the essence of genuine relationship between the Divine and the human. If our motivation involves the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, along with our response thereunto, true prayer proceeds from Heaven to earth and back to Heaven. Our Lord has made plain in His Word that "place" is not the issue of prayer. We must be sure that we share His opinion, and pray accordingly.

"I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
(I Timothy 2:8)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"The Reality of Prayer"

We must earnestly seek to avoid "praying just to be praying," as it were.

"Vain repetition," or mouthing empty words for religious purposes means little to God, and little to us (Matthew 6:7). Such prayer can in fact gravely deceive us into believing that mere ritualistic exercise provides spiritual benefit. Even a cursory reading of Scripture reveals the error of such a notion that is carnal at best, and devilish at worst. Indeed, praying without heart, sincerity, thought and deliberation is like bubbles blown by children that may look beautiful as they begin their ascent, but which all too soon burst before reaching the heavens.

Better at the end of our day that we have prayed one brief word of substantive reality than many words of passing winds. Surely a living experience of God will lead us to pray often, but far more it will lead us to pray well. Let us seek such communion with our Heavenly Father, as led by the Holy Spirit, and as made possible by the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, nothing is more real in our lives than the fact of God's presence in believing hearts, and the privileged opportunity of living relationship with Him. May we think, act, and pray accordingly.

"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
(Matthew 6:7)

"I will pray with the understanding."
(I Corinthians 14:15)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"The Simplicity of Prayer"

By definition, genuine prayer as taught in Scripture ushers us into a blessed grace of simplicity.

First, we come to God in the confidence of His wisdom and knowledge, and in the confession of our lack thereof.

"His understanding is infinite... To God only wise be through Jesus Christ forever... we know not what we should pray for for as we ought" (Psalm 147:5; Romans 16:27).

Regarding what needs to happen in those matters about which we pray, we need not be overly detailed because our understanding of the details is so limited. We rather ask God to work according to His perfect knowledge of every aspect of the requests we bring to Him. This often pares down our words, even as it increases the requisite humility and faith of our heart and attitude. Rather than tell the Lord what we think He needs to do - which is so often misguided - we rather trust Him to do what He knows needs to be done.

We also come in the acknowledgement of need for God's wisdom regarding our role in the situations our prayers address. How easily we scratch the wrong itch, as it were, and thus make bigger messes of troubles because we act according to our own faulty understanding. We do well in prayer to consecrate ourselves to the heart and hand of our Heavenly Father, trusting Him to guide our thinking and decision making regarding the actions of our hands and feet. Thereby we act according to strength, God's strength, because we lay aside our frantic troublings of mind in order embrace the faithful trusting of heart whereby we are led by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, such simplicity of prayer causes communion with God to be far more real, and thus far more likely on a consistent basis. Certainly our Heavenly Father would not have His trusting children in Christ to view prayer as a burden to be borne, but rather as a gift to be received, enjoyed and practiced as a beloved experience of our relationship with Him. Burdens may surely lead us to pray, and just as surely will be unloaded from our hearts as the simplicity of true prayer graces our hearts with the rest and reality of God's living presence with and within us.

"Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Need To Know"

One of the most beautiful things about relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ involves the mystery of it. Certainly we can know enough to enter the relationship, to increasingly experience it, and to have great expectation that present blessedness assures us of future glory. We deceive ourselves, however, if we expect in this lifetime to arrive at a place wherein we can declare with finality and completion, "I've got it!"

For everything we know about the bond between God and ourselves, an immeasurable potential of glory waits to be discovered and applied. What is His role? What is our role? We will never fully find answers in this lifetime. Again, we can know enough to live abundantly in the Lord Jesus, and we should expect to do so as the Holy Spirit works in us to conform us to the image of Christ. Nevertheless, the infinite nature of God unites with our present limitations to maintain mystery as an ongoing aspect of our relationship with God.

Such mystery will always be uncomfortable to our flesh, which desires the absolute knowledge and certainty known only by God. We long for some new insight, teaching, or discipline whereby the discomfiting fact of our imperfection is somehow eliminated, or at least suppressed to the degree that we no longer sense our inherent human weakness. Certainly our Lord would have us grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and a more consistent experience of His involvement should be expected. However, our human frailties do not dissolve in our Lord's presence, or by His working in us. They rather become His holy means of preparing us to trust Him, and to avail ourselves of His strength "made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

We must adjust ourselves to this reality, and the mystery of our relationship with God. He presently has us on a "need to know" basis. That is, whatever light we require to consistently trust and obey Him, and whatever brings genuine and contagious peace to our hearts, our Heavenly Father provides in much abundance. Further illumination, however, can wait until we are better equipped to receive it. Recognizing this present need for both the known and unknown will go far in enabling our assimilation of light given, and our acceptance of mysteries which remain...

"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Monday, January 2, 2012

"It Came To Pass"

The phrases "come to pass" or "came to pass" occur 618 times in the Bible. A clear message or lesson presents itself to us in this frequent Scriptural reminder that "the fashion of this world passeth away" (I Corinthians 7:31).

In this life, nothing stays the same except the reality that nothing stays the same. We may long for continuity, and seem to get it for awhile. But only for awhile. God Himself constituted our present existence to be fleeting because a sinful, fallen world is no place to plant the stakes of an eternal tent. The strong tendency of our fleshly tendencies, including those of even godly believers, tends toward the idolatry of worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). A state of flux rather than permanence helps us to overcome such temptation. Change and loss are therefore our friends (although they often don't seem very friendly).

Anything that loosens our grip on dust so that we may "lay hold on eternity life" benefits us (I Timothy 6:19). The shifting sands of a fallen world under our feet constantly press us to "set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). We therefore do well to expect uncertainty about tomorrow, as determined and allowed by our loving Heavenly Father whose constant concern for our benefit is the one constant in our lives. "I am the Lord; I change not" (Malachi 3:6). Looking to anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ for security and stability is a fool's game. Looking to Him is the saint's gaze, and the only hope of peace and permanence we will ever find. Thus, we do well to give thanks that all things in this world "come to pass" in order that we may rejoice in the One who comes to remain.

"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)