Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Leap Day"

    Every four years we are given an extra day in the year, a so called "leap day."  In the year 2012, today
 is that day.
    What will we do with this day, this extra day?  The answer is that we will likely do many of the same things we do in all other days.  We live most of our lives according to schedules and routines necessary in order to do what we need to do and be where we need to be.  For some, this is a very satisfying regimen that provides a desired sense of order.  For others, the everyday repetition of life feels like a mundane burden that creates restlessness and the longing for new experiences.  Most of us actually live somewhere between both perspectives, finding security in routine, and stimulation when something fresh and different comes our way.
     The Christian lives in the latter mindset of appreciating the everyday and the extraordinary.  "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of...  Call unto Me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (II Timothy 3:14; Jeremiah 33:4).  We need the old and the new in order to rightly walk with God, and as we trust and submit ourselves to Him, He supplies both aspects of Truth.  We walk upon a path long established, and marked by "the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Proverbs 22:28).  We also anticipate the "fresh oil" of the Holy Spirit, trusting that new illuminations upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ await us we live in the faith expressed by the Psalmist: "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 92:10; 62:5).
    Realizing God's involvement in the routine and the new prepares us to know Him in both aspects of our experience.  In this extra day, this "leap day," we do well to expect His living, dynamic presence along familiar and unfamiliar pathways whereby our lives are infused with the purposeful meaning that only Christ provides...
"Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
(I Corinthians 10:31)   

“Of Grace”

    When I think of grace, the first thing that comes to mind is that God gave to His beloved Son everything we deserve in order that He might give to us everything the Lord Jesus Christ deserves.

    “He hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
    “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

    Every good thing God’s trusting children in Christ will ever receive from Him comes our way solely because of the merits of our Savior.  We earn nothing, although we do place ourselves by faith and submission in position to experience “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” as purchased by His unsearchable agony on the cross of Calvary.  Thus, from our next breath to our joyous eternity in the direct presence of God, the truth of “by Christ Jesus” leads us in glory, His glory as revealed by the freest gift ever given, purchased with the highest cost ever remitted.

    Eternity will not be long enough to adequately praise, thank, serve, adore and love so good and great a Savior.  The Apostle Paul declared that the love of Christ passes knowledge, and indeed, the more we know, the more we realize that we will never fully plumb the depths of goodness that dwell in the heart of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 3:19).  Again, He took upon Himself the terrible consequences we deserve in order to freely bestow upon us the Father’s favor He so rightly deserves.  Such is the grace that delivered us from our sin, and such is the grace that delivers us unto an eternal blessedness that will never be exhausted…

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"His Loss, Our Gain"

    We often reference the truth that "God loveth a cheerful giver" because He is Himself a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7).
    Scripture frequently depicts the delight our Heavenly Father finds in providing for the needs of His creation.
      "How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures" (Psalm 36:7-8).
      "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Matthew 7:11).
      "It is your Father's good pleasure to give to you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
      "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:5-6).
    We must view our Lord according to this perspective of lavish generosity and the loving graciousness that motivates His giving.  We must also recognize that the entirety of God's provision comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is, the person and work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf comprises the means by which God supplies for everything in our lives. 
     "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). 
     This fact illuminates a blessed but solemn truth, namely, that God's supply comes to us by way of great sacrifice, the sacrifice of His beloved Son.  Indeed, Christ's loss and our gain are directly proportional.  "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (II Corinthians 8:9).
    Had the Lamb of God not been purposed to suffer and die for us in space/time history, and had He not actually done so, the human race would have been consigned to the wrath of God immediately after Adam's sin.  Thankfully, the Lord Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," and the Lamb slain 2,000 years ago on the cross of Calvary (Revelation 13:8).  Thus, God has worked according to His mercy throughout history to provide for humanity's needs, and in so doing, to draw us unto the saving grace that meets our deepest void.  "He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  All supply, therefore, flows from the horror of Calvary's sacrifice, and the bloody loss that made provision for our eternal gain. 
    In this context, the truth that God delights in providing for us takes on new and solemn meaning.  Our Heavenly Father does not and cannot give merely from the sentiment of His heart.  No, the suffering of His Son was required for every breath and every thing He will ever bestow upon us.  That which is free to us cost our Lord far more than we will ever know or even imagine.  And yet He remains the most cheerful of givers to us.  How can this be?  Only one word begins to answer the question, and it provides only a glimpse upon a reality that eternity will never fully reveal.  The word, of course, is love.  We are so infinitely and everlastingly cherished by God that providing for us fills His heart with delight despite the suffering and death of Christ whereby such provision was made possible.  He loves us that much, and He will always love us that much.  Surely my writing and your reading must end at this point, as we bow head and heart to wonder and worship.
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12:2)

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Self Destruction?"

     Human beings are not naturally self destructive.
     "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Ephesians 5:29).
    We presently live in an environment filled with spiritual entities who seek our harm.  "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).  This Biblical truth, coupled with the Apostle Paul's declaration of our natural bent toward self preservation, means that beliefs, attitudes, actions, habits and ways hurtful to ourselves indicates the influence of Satan and his minions.  Our enemies are allowed by God to tempt us with countless worldly images, ideas, philosophies and appeals that beckon our flesh with the promise of good things that may in fact provide temporary pleasures.  In the long run, however, great harm awaits as we are distracted from the person and way of the Christ who is life to all who believe.  "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).
     Recognizing that self destructive ways do not begin with ourselves does not relieve us from personal responsibility.  We must respond to our enemies' temptations before they can have debilitiating effects on us.  However, it remains true that understanding the origin of hurtful ways provides a primary means by which we begin to deal with whatever spiritual and moral pathologies plague us.  I like to think of it as getting our spiritual dander up, as it were.  Indeed, when we realize that the particular failings that harm us indicate we have been duped by the lies of devils rather than merely succumbing to human weakness supplies an entirely different motivation and way of dealing with our challenges. 
     We stand to "fight the good fight of faith," not against ourselves, but rather to "wrestle" against those outside ourselves who seek our destruction (I Timothy 6:12).  And we do so not by directly confronting those enemies whom we cannot see or understand, but rather by affixing our gaze more clearly and intently on the Captain of our salvation.  As James taught, we "resist the devil" by submitting ourselves to God(James 4:7).  Again, realizing that we are pawns of self destruction rather than originators creates in us a different and more Biblical sensibility that makes our overcoming through Christ far more likely and actual.  We look to Him, acknowledging personal responsibility for our sins, but recognizing also the necessity for a clearer view of the conflict that calls us to correctly identify our enemies in order to decisively overcome their attempts to destroy us.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
(I Peter 5:8)

Friday, February 24, 2012

"A House... A Home"

     There's an old saying, "It takes a man to build a house, but only a woman can make a home" (and yes, I know there are women housebuilders, and that a man can make a ho... well, I'm not so sure about that!).
    In the formation of His house, His spiritual house the church, the Lord Jesus Christ both builds and makes.  That is, He first establishes the primary relationship with us by leading us to the new birth based upon His death, resurrection and ascension into the Heavenlies. 
    "Ye.. are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19; 20-21).
    Our Savior, however, is not content with merely building a house, albeit even a "fitly framed... holy temple in the Lord."  He purposes rather to embellish His project by making it a more beautiful and comfortable dwelling than our minds can imagine.  Thus, every member of the body of Christ is different and possessed of gifts that will one day be fully revealed to display the glory of Christ in ways that no other part of the temple can provide.  "Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him" (I Corinthians 12:18). 
    In our present existence, we cannot fully see "the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).  Nevertheless, we "shine as lights in the world," revealing already the wisdom and artistry of the Builder and Maker in ways that show how committed He is to a temple not only functional, but sublimely beautiful (Philippians 2:15).  I often ponder how even we Christians fail to realize what the world would be (or would have been) without us.  Think of the orphanages that would have never been built, the hospitals never established, the hungry never fed, the music and poetry never written or performed, the art never painted or sculpted, the sermons never preached, the books never written, and most importantly, the trillions of unknown and unseen acts of self sacrificial love motivated and empowered by the Spirit of Christ as He works to make His house a home. 
    The church, the spiritual body of Christ, is a beautiful thing.  A master Builder laid our foundation, built our walls, and formed our roof.  But now, an Artist of infinite creativity is in the house to make it a home, His home.  And, as with all beautiful dwellingplaces, our Lord's embellishments will continue forever because His infinite beauty will require new touches and nuances, even as old perfections eternally glimmer and gleam.  We do well to realize this about our brothers and sisters, and about ourselves.  Indeed, let us expect to see "the beauty of the Lord our God upon us," and be continually amazed by the house being made into a home.
"He hath made everything beautiful in His time."
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The Squeaky Wheel"

    Often the squeakiest Christian wheel in an environment will be the one that does more harm than good by its noisy profession of faith.  Be it a workplace, a family, a neighborhood, or even a church, the voice that speaks of God without a corresponding life that reflects His presence and working does far more harm to the cause of Christ than the most strident and vocal atheist.
    In the workplace, for example, the believer who seeks to genuinely influence people for the Lord Jesus will understand that before he utters a word, the determination must be made that he will be the hardest working person on the job.  He will show up on time, he will not miss work unless providentially hindered, his attitude will be kindly and cooperative, he will respect both his supervisors and fellow workers, and he will not inappropriately or abruptly seek to speak of Christ when his mind should be focused on the endeavors of the workplace.  Indeed, he will seek far more to speak by his life than his words, taking opportunities clearly orchestrated by the Holy Spirit for witness, but recognizing that these will be far more effective by emphasizing quality rather than quantity.
    The same principle applies in every environment.  Recalling that the word "witness" in the New Testament is translated from the same Greek root word as "martyr" will go far in helping us to realize that a self sacrificial life and attitude speaks of the Lord Jesus no less eloquently than the finest oration.  Certainly we seek and expect opportunities to bear verbal witness for Christ, but not before we have devoted ourselves to God for the applied witness of a life well lived by the true leading and power of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, the squeaky wheel never bears appeal, driving people away rather than leading them unto the Savior who Himself lived long before He spoke.
"We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."
(II Corinthians 2:17)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Unity of Humility and Honesty

     In his epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that we "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).  This we accomplish by the humility of Christ, "with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).  However, true unity must also be maintained by "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
     The former way of peace seems obvious as we humbly "let each esteem other as better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).  However, the speaking of truth in love often means that we must express our differences with each other.  It also means that peace may seem to be jeopardized as we stand for the convictions formed by serious reading and study of Scripture. We must be willing to disagree agreeably, as the saying goes, understanding that no true peace and unity can exist unless we are both humble and honest with each other.
     The Apostle Paul is our great example in this matter.  His epistles are filled with both loving affirmation and loving confrontation.  Paul recognized that we do our brother no favors by nodding our heads in agreement when our hearts and minds are quaking in disagreement.  So long as our attitude is lovingly humble and we are not simply arguing for the sake of argument, we may rightly tell our brother that we disagree with him.  In so doing, we strive for a true unity of the Spirit based on honest and forthright devotion to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our brother's benefit.  Indeed, no true peace exists in an environment of merely pretending to agree with each other when we don't.
    2,000 years of the spirit of antichrist in the world has led to a Christendom characterized by countless differences in doctrine, philosophy, structure and method.  The body of Christ often seems a broken and fractured organism prone far more to discord  than harmony.  We do well to acknowledge the fact of the matter, always seeking to find common ground, while not overlooking or ignoring our differences.  As we agree to agree and disagree, a genuine respect for each other will far more likely result.  More importantly, truth will often be found as both humility and honesty characterize our relationships based on the genuine love of Christ. 
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
(Psalm 133:1)

Monday, February 20, 2012

"How Frail I Am"

    We begin our lives completely dependent on others, and under normal circumstances, the loss of our abilities through aging means that we will likely end our lives in the same condition.
    The flesh of humanity nevertheless blusters and boasts of its powers to navigate the course of life despite ever moving toward its destiny of dust.  "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul" declared the poet's foolish and doomed potentate.  "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" The inscription carved upon the fallen and decaying statue in the desert recalls the dead, buried and decaying corpse of this pretender to the throne. 
    The murky, subterranean stream from which such poisoned waters flow in the soul of man originates in the ancient lie spoken by the serpent: "Ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5).  Adam and Eve long ago embraced this deception, the latter by deception, the former by willfulness, and thereby cast humanity into the disastrous insanity of self-dependence.  Despite lifelong evidence to the contrary, we thus live with a flesh bent toward pride and the delusion that we made and sustain ourselves.
     Long ago, King David discovered this dark deception in himself, and prayed one of the wisest prayers recorded in Scripture.  "LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am" (Psalm 39:4).  The mighty "man of war," greater than Goliath and countless others who fell by David's stone or sword, realized what far weaker men often fail to ever know about themselves. 
     "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
     "It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3).
     "What hast thou, that thou did not receive?" (I Corinthians 4:7).
     "He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).
     "By Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17).
     "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
     "What is your life?  It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14).
     "That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other" (Ecclesiastes 3:19).
    Another mighty man, the Apostle Paul, also discovered the weakness of his flesh and his inability to produce righteousness and godliness of heart.  We close with his blessed discovery, and the affirmation of the Christ who alone can deliver us from the delusion of independence...
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
(Philippians 3:3)

Friday, February 17, 2012

"The Best Robe"

(a repeat from 2006)

     "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him" (Luke 15:22).

      Who is the recipient of "the best robe?"
     Is it the Lord Jesus Christ upon His triumphant return to Heaven after He victoriously trampled sin, hell, and the grave under His nail-scarred feet?  Or could it be David upon his coronation as the king of Israel?  Or might it refer to an overcoming saint finally reaching glory after having lived an earthly lifetime of faith, obedience, and sacrifice for God and others?

      While the Lord Jesus, David, and the godly believer are likely candidates for such Biblical affirmation, the truth is that they are not the subjects of this blessing.  No, the best robe in this passage is reserved for one who expected nothing of the sort, and who would seem utterly unworthy of such exalted garb.

      "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:15-24).
      We are all guilty of having sinned against our Father, and wasted His inheritance to the degree that the odor of swine is our most appropriate garment.  If we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, the best robe has been bestowed on us.  It is the robe of our Savior's righteousness that is so effectual in redeeming us that God remembers no more our rejection of Him, or the degradation that led to our spiritual starvation.  Indeed, He looks upon us and sees the robe, the best robe.  And forevermore He relates to us as the loving Father of sons and daughters who were dead, and are alive again, who were lost, and are found.
     Upon our arrival in Heaven, the extent of our Lord's redemption will be known in infinitely greater measure.  The realization will take our breath away, and we will feel that we cannot bow low enough to adequately worship the Author and Finisher of our salvation.  In this we will be correct, but we will also hear our Father's command that we stand so that the universe can view the Blood-washed garment of righteousness that we wear.  For as we do, the glory of the Lord Jesus will shine forth from us in a splendor heretofore unknown, and the display of grace will begin that will require an eternity to fulfill...

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mephibosheth Conclusion

"Grace For Grace"
    After King David's bestowal of grace, Mephibosheth dined at the royal table for the rest of his life.
    "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...  So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table" (II Samuel 9:7; 13).
     In far greater manner, the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ must continually partake of our Savior and His freely given bestowal of favor and sustenance.
     "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16).
    Our first taste of grace in the new birth prepares and equips us for a continual feasting upon Christ in this life and forevermore.  The present partaking of grace makes possible the next step of faith whereby "grace for grace" becomes the ongoing dynamic of our lives.  God redeemed us for this through Christ, and tragic is the chronicle of any believer distracted or deterred from the Divine goodness that fills and fulfills us.  "Continue in the grace of God... continue in the faith... continue in His goodness... continue in the Son, and in the Father" (Acts 13:43; 14:22; Romans 11:22; I John 2:24).
     The falling, failing believer always falls and fails because he stops feasting at the table of grace.  He forgets or ignores the bounty thereupon, and thus does not avail himself of the strength-giving sustenance and restorative provided by the Lord Jesus.  Indeed, the feast of Christ offers power for the fulfilling of our hearts, the living of our lives, forgiveness and cleansing for our failures, provision for our journeys, comfort in our losses, peace for today, and hope for tomorrow.  "For my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus... "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (Philippians 4:19; II Peter 1:3).
     Long ago, a lame man found grace in the sight of the King of Israel because he was related to the King's beloved friend.  In this day, millions find infinitely greater grace because we are related to the beloved Son of Heaven's King.  May our pathway to the Table of Christ become well worn as we feast upon Him by believing that He is the Bread of life, and that the invitation of grace beckons us to the Sustenance of our hearts in this moment and forevermore...
"O taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
(Psalm 34:8)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mephibosheth -- Part 4

"The Dead Dog"
    The history of Mephibosheth subsequent to King David's bestowal of grace is very interesting. His servant Ziba would lie to David about Mephibosheth, telling the king that Mephibosheth desired to restore the kingdom to the lineage of Saul (II Samuel 16:3).  David would ultimately confront Mephibosheth about Ziba's claim, but would be convinced by the lame man of Ziba's deception (II Samuel 19:24-29).  Mephibosheth then casts himself upon the mercy of David with the same "I am but a dead dog" attitude he expressed when first blessed by the king:
    "He (Ziba) hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.  For all of my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more unto the king?" (II Samuel 19:27-28).
    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are exalted by grace infinitely more than Mephibosheth.  The affirmations of Scripture regarding both our present and future place at God's table fill the pages of the New Testament (an excellent and necessary study, by the way, for every Christian).  Nevertheless, deep in our hearts there will always be a place for the "dead dog" sensibility.  We do well to frequently remember from whence we came, and whence we would have gone had it not been for the merciful grace of our blessed Savior.  "From dust to glory, what a Story!", as I once heard a preacher say.  But even more, from sinful, condemned dust to glory...
    Our Heavenly Father would doubtless not have us dwell on the shame from which He delivered us.  But the dead dog must remain with us, at least in this lifetime when we are so tempted to pride and self importance.  As with Mephibosheth, and far more, grace unexpectedly and undeservedly redeems us to untold favor and abundance.  Our brother's heart from long ago brightly shines through the ages to illuminate our our own hearts and minds as we seek to remember our own lameness.  But even more, we recall the indescribable bestowal of grace by the One who gave Himself to the horror of the cross in order to transform dead dogs into sons and daughters seated at the royal table forevermore.
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am chief."
(I Timothy 1:15)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mephibosheth Part 3

"Strong?  Weak?  Both!"
     We are all Mephibosheth, lame before grace bestows Divine favor upon us through Christ, and lame afterwards in the sense that we remain dependent on our Lord for all things.
     "Though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you" (II Corinthians 13:4).
     We might well consider ourselves as strong in Christ since the Apostle Paul commanded us to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).  This is true, and we do well to trust in the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable us to "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  We are spiritually strong in Him.  However, nothing changes the fact that we are also "weak in Him," that is, we remain the completely dependent party in the relationship of God and man.  As with Mephibosheth, we feast at the Lord's table, but we also require the help of God in even getting to the table.  Our spiritual lameness remains in the sense that we walk by and only by "the power of His might," preparing us to realize that "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).
    The believer lives in many enigmas of spiritual reality that call us to walk pathways that seem to diverge.  Are we strong in Christ?  Yes.  Are we weak in Christ?  Yes.  Both truths are true, and in the mind of God (the only mind that ultimately matters), no contradiction exists.  Thus, we trust the One who perfectly understands, and the One who causes our feet to walk the paths of strength and weakness that converge in the Lord Jesus.  We live in the confidence of faith that affirms, "I can do all things through Christ," and the humility of faith that confesses, "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (Philippians 4:13; John 15:5).  Like Mephibosheth, we rejoice in an abundance of blessing that exalts and enables us in the favor of God, and in the awareness of abiding lameness that humbles us in our complete dependence upon God.
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
(II Corinthians 12:9)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mephibosheth Part 2

"Our Jonathan"
    The blessing of King David descended upon Mephibosheth solely because he was the son of Jonathan, David's dear and departed friend.
    "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?" (II Samuel 9:1).
    This foreshadows the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Jonathan, and the sole basis of God's blessing in our lives.  Our Savior is the "heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2).  As we would expect, His perfect character and doings result in the abundant bestowal of His Father's favor upon Him.  The unexpected and undeserved wonder of grace is that those united to Him by faith become "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17).  As a free gift of the most magnanimous grace, God the Father blesses us because we are rightly related to His Son.  Our own character and doings cannot be the means by which we merit such favor because God's standard is perfection (II Samuel 22:31).  Instead, we are blessed as the fruit of knowing and trusting the Lord Jesus, and thus receiving the grace-given favor that changes us into His image.  We "freely receive" and thereby become those who more and more "freely give" (Matthew 10:8).
    Mephibosheth became an ardent devotee of David after being received to the King's table, a point we will address in a future consideration.  Little wonder, and even less wonder that the born again believer in Christ grows in devotion to the Lord Jesus as we progressively discover in Scripture and in our lives the grace that redeemed us.  This is why the Apostle Peter commanded that we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Just as day by day Mephibosheth dined at the king's table, so are believers called to become "partakers of Christ" in every aspect of our lives (Hebrews 3:14).  As we avail ourselves of such grace, the "Bread of life" we eat becomes the spiritual and moral characteristic of our being.  Christ is "formed in you," as the Apostle Paul taught, meaning that we increasingly think, speak, act and relate by the leading and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:19).  And all because of grace, all because the King freely calls those to His table who by grace and faith are related to "our Jonathan."
"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
(Galatians 4:6-7)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mephibosheth Part 1

"Grace Was the Answer"
    According to the Jewish perspective of his day, Mephibosheth, at the very least, viewed himself as having been excluded from the blessing of God because of his lameness.  At worst, he would have considered himself accursed.
     The latter is likely the case.  "What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (II Samuel 9:8).  The Jews hated both death and dogs, and thus, Mephibosheth felt as if a double portion of the curse of God rested upon him.  As with Job, he doubtless wondered why the Lord had chosen to so reject and smite him.  "Why hast Thou set me as a mark against Thee, so that I am a burden to myself?  And why dost Thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?" (Job 7:20-21).
    Along came King David, full of desire to bless any descendant of his dearly beloved friend Jonathan, to answer the question.  Indeed, grace was the answer.  As the Lord Jesus Christ would one day say of another unfortunate soul soon to be blessed by grace, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4).  Mephibosheth had been allowed by God to suffer injury so that one day he would be blessed by God with the revelation of His lovingkindness and tendermercies.  Had lameness never happened to the son of Jonathan, the particular grace he ultimately received would have never been known.
    Perhaps we have questions about our own lameness, in whatever form it may characterize our life and experience.  Be it physical, emotional, relational, or whatever seeming misfortune may form the pain, scar and void, the answer remains the same.  Grace is the answer.  Furthermore, a greater King than David approaches who seeks to bless all related to One more dearly beloved than even the closest friend. 
    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). 
     When we enter into Christ by faith, we begin to discover that throughout our lifetime, God has worked to prepare us for particular measures of blessedness that can only be known when they fill difficult voids in our lives.  Being rightly related to the Lord Jesus through grace fits us for further bestowals of goodness that glorify Him and cause our lives, as with Mephibosheth, to be a vibrant testimony to our King's unspeakable kindness and generosity.  Dead dogs become "the sheep of His pasture," alive in His life, and subject in both time and eternity to ongoing revelations of kindness...
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Thursday, February 9, 2012


    Today we begin a short series on Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, King David's dearest friend.  Few figures in the Old Testament more illustrate the undeserved and unexpected nature of grace than this man blessed because of his father's relationship to the king of Israel.  Below you'll find the pertinent passages in the book of II Samuel for your reading and consideration.
    As you read, consider carefully the emphasis on Mephibosheth's blessing being the result of David's close bond with Jonathan.  This will be the primary theme and emphasis in our consideration.
    II Samuel 4:4 - "And Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth" (II Samuel 4:4).
    (II Samuel 9:1-13) - 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-ebar.        
     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 always at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"The Venture and Adventure of Faith"

    Life brings us to impasses wherein we can do nothing about difficult circumstances or conditions, and wherein God also does not immediately answer our prayers for change.
    What do we do in such times?  What are we to think and believe?  The Biblical answer calls us to recognize that our Lord's inactivity and our inability means that we are accept the situation, but not with mere passive resignation.  No, if we cannot change things, and if God will not change things, it must be that He purposes to take advantage of our challenge as it exists, and then calls us to join Him in the venture and adventure of faith.  Thus we open our eyes with expectation that possibilities lie before us that could never exist if the circumstances or conditions were immediately remedied. 
    During one of his terms of incarceration in Rome, the Apostle Paul plundered the domain of Caesar for the Gospel's sake:
     "All the saints of Caesar's household salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household" (Philippians 4:22). 
      Clearly, Paul took advantage of his imprisonment to lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, precious souls who would not have been so directly exposed to the Gospel had God delivered the Apostle from his trial.  Paul could not escape the confines of Caesar.  So, he spiritually pillaged and ravaged Caesar's household, taking advantage of the difficult circumstances in which he found himself rather than giving in to mourning and despair.
    The same principle applies to every difficulty in our lives from which no escape is possible.  It matters not what the particulars of the matter may involve.  The choice lies before us.  Will we accept the situation in the confidence that God has brought us to this seeming impasse for the imparting of grace possible only if we remain therein?  Or will we bemoan our difficulty and thus fail to discover glories that bless us, and more importantly, that provide opportunities for the blessing of others?  The God who causes water to spring forth from a rock, light to shine in the darkness, and tombs of death to become cradles of resurrection calls us to the venture and adventure of faith whereby our furnace becomes a venue not of incineration, but of the light and warmth of the Lord Jesus... 
"Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires."
(Isaiah 24:15)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Asleep, On a Pillow"

(a repeat from 2010)
    Winds were howling.  Great waves were crashing against the sides of the ship.  Capsizing and death by drowning seemed imminent.  Strong, hardy men were terrified and crying out for their lives. The Lord Jesus Christ was asleep on a pillow in the ship's stern.
    "And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?   How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:35-41).
    The Lord Jesus slept because He knew that no wind and no sea could have capsized a ship whose journey began with His word, "Let us pass over unto the other side."  The storms of our lives belong to our Lord, as the Psalmist declared, "Fire, and hail; snow, and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling His word" (Psalm 148:8).  They cannot blow, they cannot bluster unless He gives them rein to do so.  Sometimes they howl at us personally.  Sometimes they threaten those whom we love.  And sometimes the waves crash against nations and cultures.  Whatever the case, it is good to think of our Lord as "asleep on a pillow." 
     Of course, God does not sleep in the sense of caring for us, or of His working all things after the counsel of His own will.  "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).  It is true, however, that the storms of our lives do not find the Lord Jesus with a furrowed brow, a rapidly beating heart, or hands wringing in frustration or desperation.  No, in this sense, we do well to see Him sleeping like a baby, without a care in the world.
    We shall pass over to the other side.  "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).  Our Savior is the author of our faith, and He is the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  He knows that which has been in our lives, that which is, and that which shall be.  He knows that He is everything we will ever need Him to be.  Most importantly, He knows His own heart, which is filled with a love for us that "passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).  No wind can capsize our ship.  No wave can drown us.  No storm can cause that we shall not pass over to the other side.  The One who loves us more than life itself will see to that.
    See your Savior, "asleep on a pillow."  As long as the One to whom we have entrusted both time and eternity is not overwrought or overwhelmed with care, all will be well.  In this hour, all is well for the trusting sons and daughters of God in Christ.  Our Master has said, "Let us pass over to the other side."  And so we shall.
"I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him."
(Ecclesiastes 3:14)

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Is," Not "Ist"

    People are not "ists."  People are "is(s)".
    By necessity, we categorize ourselves and others based on numerous human aspects of our existence.  Heritage, nationality, trade, hobby, interests and religious affiliation, among many other designations, define us in our own minds.  We perceive what we are and what others are by the "ist" because we possess no ability to look deeply into the heart.
    God, conversely, sees directly into the essence and core of every human being.
    "God looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7).
    "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).
    "Thou, God, seest me" (Genesis 16:13).
     Again, we cannot what our Lord sees. And we can partially gauge ourselves and others by outer aspects and designations of our lives.  Nevertheless, we must remember that human beings, in their essence, are not heritage, nationality, trade, hobby, interest, or even religious affiliation.  Indeed, we've never met an "ist".  Every pair of eyes into which we gaze shines forth from an "is".  Furthermore, our stated "ist" does not always accurately reveal our "is".  Who are we, really?  Who are others, really?  Again, only God knows, but we must be sure to remember that people are not in essence their bodies, or their personalities, or their histories, or their affiliations.  They are something mysterious, and something even potentially wonderful if deep within they respond to the One whose eyes gaze into the inner sanctum of their being.
    "Heavenly Father, remind us often of how little we actually know about ourselves and others.  Keep us from the error of relating to people only as an "ist".  Remind us that an "is" dwells within the outward trappings of all, and that Your vision is primarily focused on the heart.  Lead us to relate to people accordingly, trusting You for guidance and enabling to pray, act and speak in such a manner that our lives serve as the Light of the Lord Jesus Christ shining into the depths of others.  In His Name we pray, Amen."
"He knoweth the secrets of the heart."
(Psalm 44:21)

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Life Eternal"

Eternal life involves quality of existence more than duration. Indeed, in Heaven we shall be far more concerned with how well we are living than how long.

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

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ presently "have eternal life" (I John 5:13). We are united with life Himself, that is, with the Lord Jesus who declared, "I am... the life" (John 14:6). "To live is Christ" echoed the Apostle Paul, and thus believers exist not only in the physical and temporal environment of our earthly perception, but in the transcendent life of God Himself (Philippians 1:21). In a limited sense, eternity has already begun for us, and our Lord calls us to a quality of existence that even now bears the atmosphere and fragrance of Heaven.

We experience and express such glorious potential by faith. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3). Note Paul's present tense description of our being "risen with Christ," and of our life being "hid with Christ in God." Do we believe such glorious and seemingly unlikely truth? Do we actually possess the means to overcome the limitations of earth that would keep us bound to its surly bonds, as it were? Can we know joy when sorrow seems the only possible portion? Is peace possible when turmoil surrounds us? Can a broken heart become an open portal for Heavenly realities to flood our being with joy and wonder? The Bible resoundingly promises that we can, and that we will as we trust and submit to the eternal Life that already teems in our Christ-inhabited spirits.

Nothing can thwart the peace, assurance and joy of the heart whose gaze affixes upon the risen Lord Jesus. Nothing. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). Certainly the winds of time and earth will ruffle our sails, and worldly waves will crash upon the bow of our ship, threatening to swamp us. But our Helmsman will keep us on course, and we will sail unhindered toward the destination He set for us. Eternity is that port to which we venture, and eternity is the current that escorts us there. Yes, Heaven has come to us in the person of Christ in order that we may one day go with Him to Heaven. To the degree we know, believe and affirm this Truth to be true will be the degree to which we experience the eternal quality of being and existence freely given to us by the "Christ, who is our life" (Colossians 3:4).

"We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."
(I John 5:20).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"This Is Peace"

(The lyrics of a song I recently wrote that speaks to the assurance believers have for the future, whatever it may hold, wherein God awaits us in every venue, and every moment.)

"This Is Peace"

I don’t know what tomorrow holds,
but I know Who holds tomorrow in the palm of His hand,
His nail-pierced Hand,I know who holds tomorrow…
And this is peace, this is peace.
This is peace.

I don’t know how the road will bend,
but I know I will not go without my Friend.
For deep in my spirit, His Spirit lives,
and grace for each journey I’ve learned that He gives.

And this is peace, this is peace. This is peace.

I know this, that wherever I go,
I’ll find Him there
for yes it’s true, tomorrow He holds.
And though I can’t tell the path that lies ahead of me,
I gaze into the darkness and the Way I plainly see,
and there is peace, there is peace.For this is peace.

"My times are in Thy hand."

(Psalm 31:15)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"The Ministry of Nathan"

After his illicit relationship with Bathsheba and the consigning of her husband Uriah to his death, David, the man declared by God to be "after Mine own heart," required the prophet Nathan to bring him to his senses regarding the horror of his sinful actions.

"Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon" (II Samuel 12:9).

One might suppose that godly David would have been sensitive to the Holy Spirit's conviction, as based on his relationship with God and knowledge of the law. He was not, and necessity required that the Lord send Nathan to open the eyes and heart of His servant.

"When a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

The necessity has not changed in the many centuries since David. Sometimes God's most dedicated sons and daughters require a human voice to expose what seemingly should be obvious. How did David fail to see the grievousness of his sin? Lest we be tempted by even the slightest notion of righteous indignation toward our brother of old, let us remember those times when we failed to see the obvious regarding our own sins and failures. "How did I fail to see the grievousness of my sin?" This is the question that the Scriptural account of David must raise in our minds. Our own particular "Bathshebas" and "Uriahs," in whatever form, must sometimes be exposed by "Nathans" sent to us as God's light to illuminate our darkness.

For those called to serve as such a voice, much prayerful humbling of heart and mind must precede the ministry of correction. A sense of fear and trembling must accompany the awareness that a fallen brother may require our loving willingness to speak the truth in love. Even more, we must remember our own susceptibility to temptation and the times we have required a fellow believer to open our own eyes. Only the Spirit of the Lord Jesus can rightly lead and enable us in attitude, word and deed for such ministry to each other, and may we seek Him with much diligence whenever the ministry of Nathan lies before us as our ministry.

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
(Proverbs 27:6)