Thursday, May 31, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 7

      Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ still possess within our flesh the potential for sin, which leads at times to the actuality of sin.  No less than the Apostle Paul confessed this truth about himself.

     “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing… I see another law, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin in my members” (Romans 7:18; 23).

    The proper lowly view of ourselves results from this continuing of sin in our flesh, and in our experience.  Every honest Christian will acknowledge that we still inexcusably distrust and disobey our Lord despite the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in our enlivened spirits.  Our spiritual enemies tempt us to think, speak, act and relate in contradiction to who we are in Christ, and we sometimes succumb.  Indeed, the fact of who we are (and Whose we are) makes our waywardness all the more inexcusable, and the lowly view of ourselves all the more appropriate.

     It is easy to hold this perspective of other Christians, whose failings somehow seem much bigger than our own.  The lowly view, however, commands that we look into the mirror of our own reflection rather than gaze through the window at others.  Indeed, if anyone else’s sins loom larger in my mind than my own, I can be sure that the Holy Spirit is working to douse the destructive flame of pride in my perspective and attitude.  The lowly view He fosters directs attention toward me rather than thee, as it were, resulting in the humility that redeems us from the wicked insanity of arrogant self-importance.

     As long as our sins made necessary the agonized sorrow and death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, the lowly view will be more than appropriate.  It will be necessary for a walk with God based on truth and reality.  “Search me, o God, and know my heart.  Try me, and know my thoughts.  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24; emphasis added).  Maintaining always the attitude of this prayer – the lowly view – establishes our feet firmly on the path of righteousness, and our hearts faithfully in the work of the Spirit in our lives.

“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.”
(Luke 15:21-22)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 6

     How dependent on God are human beings?

     Completely.  Totally.  Altogether.  Fully.  Utterly.

     “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3)
      “In Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
      “He giveth to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25).
      “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

     The “low view” of ourselves begins with the most basic fact of our existence, namely, God is God and we are not.  The Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist unite to reveal this most basic of all truths.

      “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
     “And John confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). 

    While we might think this to be the most obvious of truths, the fact of the matter is that from Eden onward, the flesh of humanity bears the devilish deception, “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).  Left to ourselves, we believe ourselves worthy and capable of navigating the course of our own lives.  Evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, but the deception remains until salvation in the Lord Jesus begins deliverance from the delusion of our divinity.

    From the most wicked to the most godly, the next breath comes as the gift of God, as do “all things,” and “every good gift and every perfect gift.”  The believer’s low view begins here, at the altar of, “Thou art God alone” (Psalm 86:10).  We know this in principle and doctrine, but we will be tempted throughout our lifetime to live as if self autonomy and self sufficiency are possible for beings who did not originate themselves, and who do not sustain themselves.  Thus, we do well to often bow at the simple, but vital altar whereupon we yet again view the ashes of the most basic of sacrifices:  “Thou art… I am not.”

“It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Thy works.”
(Psalm 73:28)
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”
(Proverbs 28:26)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 5

     Before we proceed to the “low view” of ourselves commanded by Scripture, it bears repeating that the “high view” we have considered in the last few days leads not to arrogance or self exaltation, but humility.

    “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:10).

     As we properly affirm the person we are in Christ in accordance with Biblical teaching, we do so in affirmation not of ourselves, but of the God who spiritually birthed and nurtures us.  Indeed, were it not for the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in us, we would have no more interest in godliness than we had in our initial reception of salvation in the Lord Jesus.  We must be drawn to the table of consistent faith and obedience no less than we were drawn to the new birth.  We respond, of course, and our role of “working out” the salvation our Lord is “working in” calls us to decisive and conscious involvement in our relationship with God (Philippians 2:13).  Nevertheless, we always know that Christ is the power of our walk in godliness, and all honor flows to His blessed throne of grace.

     Failure to know and affirm the Biblical high view of ourselves reveals a deficit in our apprehension of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.  Who is He, what has He done, what is He doing, and what does He promise to do forevermore in us?  These questions, rightly answered, beckon us to a proper perception both of Christ, and of ourselves.  The New Testament plainly teaches that it is not enough to rightly perceive only our Lord, as central and vital as this is.  We must also rightly perceive ourselves in the holy light of who our Savior is for us, and within us.  Such spiritual and doctrinal knowledge illuminates the candle of our innermost temple, leading us to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (I John 1:7).  Thereby is the Lord Jesus glorified, and thereby the high view of ourselves prepares us for the proper low view of ourselves.

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

Tomorrow: the Biblical low view of ourselves.

Monday, May 28, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 4

     In order to redeem us into who we are, the Lord Jesus Christ became on the cross of Calvary who He is not.

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

    The Bible never explains the meaning of the Lord Jesus being “made… to be sin.”  It rather simply tells us the holy result – “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”  Thus, we are left to only imagine what it must have been like for a pristinely perfect Heart to enter into the darkness of sin in the terms described by the Apostle Paul.  Again, “He hath made Him to be sin…”

     The Lord Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Peter 2:24).  This speaks to the physical torment of all that He suffered in the crucifixion.  Being “made… to be sin,” however, must reference the spiritual torment known by our blessed Lord.  This presents to us perhaps the greatest of mysteries regarding the cost of our redemption.  Regarding its holy effect, however, the Bible is clear.  Born again believers are not who we once were in the most elemental part of our being.  Furthermore, in terms of our present consideration, the price that made possible such change within us is far greater than we will ever know.  Indeed, to the degree that the Lord Jesus became who He is not in order to die for our sins – and to die as sin – we are now “new creatures… created in righteousness and true holiness” (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24).

     Failure to accept this truth about ourselves involves the inadvertent neglect to appreciate our Savior’s sorrows and suffering on the cross.  Such neglect is not humility.  It is rather unbelief concerning plainly stated Biblical truth.  This “high view” of ourselves originates in the view held by God, who sees us to the innermost core of our being.  Therein, He beholds a spiritual temple wherein dwells the Spirit of His Son united to the enlivened spirit of ourselves.  “God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father” (Galatians 4:6).  It was this same Son who cried out in lonely forsakenness on the cross of Calvary in order to make the presence of God our eternal portion.  May God grant much grace, enabling us to know and remember always the terrible cost that forevermore – and in this moment – changed who and what we are.

“Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
(Romans 6:11)

Friday, May 25, 2012

“The Believer’s Self-Perception” Part 3

     My mother used to tell me, “Glen, I always love you.  But I don’t always like you!”

     By this, she meant that nothing could change her affection and devotion for me regarding who I was to her as her son.  My attitudes, words, and actions, however, constituted a different matter.  I must confess to far too many episodes when my doings did not met the test of likability.  I understood my mother’s meaning, and rested safely in her love, while recognizing that she was correct to dislike wayward ways.

    It is not a perfect illustration regarding our relationship with God, but my mother’s dual sensibility does reflect His view of us.  Our Heavenly Father sees the Christ-inhabited being of born again believers.  He knows perfectly who we are, and He knows that He will ultimately finish the working of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He sees our being, and thereby are we “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).  However, He also sees perfectly our doing, accepting those expressions that flow from the presence of Christ in us, and working to change and eliminate the works of the flesh.

    God holds a high view of who we are because He is the one who birthed the “new creature” of our innermost being.  Again, He sees His Son in us, and He views the working of the Holy Spirit in us to cause our doing to more and more reflect our being.  We must join Him in this holy perception by discovering and believing the many New Testament affirmations that speak of His gift to us of our being.  Failure to do so involves an unintentional, but highly consequential besmirching of our Lord’s faithfulness, and thus, of His being.   Indeed, we did not make ourselves into who we are through the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.  God did, and His high view must become our high view.

    Such a perspective leads not to pride, but to a most humble wonder, and a most holy worship.  While not ignoring our doings, the gaze of God ventures deeply into the part of us that is the very heart of us.  He sees who we are, and He loves who we are because He is the Maker of who we are.  “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3).  This “high view,” rightly considered, reveals a grace far greater than the mind can fully ponder, or the heart can completely imagine.  It casts us to our knees and faces, especially when we realize the cost of reconstituting our innermost being.  We will consider this solemn truth in our next message, venturing to dark Calvary where our Lord became who He is not in order to make us into who we are.

Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
(II Corinthians 6:16)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“The Believer’s Self-Perception” Part 2

     The Bible calls born again believers to both a high and a low view of ourselves.

     First, let us consider the high view.  Throughout the New Testament, we find affirmations of Christians that are true at all times, regardless of whether we think, feel, speak, act and relate accordingly.  Unto the Corinthians he declared to be “carnal,” for example, the Apostle Paul  nevertheless wrote, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).  Paul also told this company of the wayward,  “In everything ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:5-8).

    When we consider that Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians largely involves an indictment of fleshly and devilish attitudes and behaviors, the Apostle’s affirmation might seem strange upon first consideration.  We must remember, however, that God views “being” as separate and distinct from “doing.”

     “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

      Every born again believer does, in fact, live in the Spirit.  “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9).   Every believer, however (as exemplified by the Corinthians), does not  consistently walk in the Spirit.  “Ye are yet carnal, for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:3).  Clearly, therefore, God differentiates between being and doing, or between the person we are in Christ, and the thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds that may or may not reflect our spiritual union with Him.

     The “high view” of ourselves involves our being.  When we believed, God constituted our innermost selves as a “new man, created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).  Solely as a gift of grace, our Lord changed who and what we most deeply are by uniting our spirits with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (I Corinthians 6:17).  Multitudes of New Testament declarations reference this gift of a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17).  Most importantly, nothing ever changes the fact of who and what we are in Christ because our grace-birthed being as “the habitations of God through the Spirit is inviolable – “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 2:22; 1:13).

    In order to think Biblically, and thus, more and more consistently walk in accordance with being, we must more and more think in these plainly and often-stated Biblical terms.  Our tendency is to gauge being by walking, however, a process that does not accord with Scripture, and which can never lead to a consistent walk in the Spirit.  We are not what we do, although what we do should certainly exhibit what we are.  We are who we are, and in the most amazing miracle of grace, “Ye are the temple of the living God” (II Corinthians 6:16).

     Note that this high view of ourselves actually involves a high view of the God who spiritually reconstituted us as a free gift of grace when we believed.  We did nothing to make ourselves who we are, nor do we maintain our being in Christ.  We will consider this necessary truth in tomorrow’s message, emphasizing that failure to hold the Biblical high view of ourselves actually reveals a deficit in our understanding and perception of God Himself.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

“The Believer’s Self-Perception” Part 1

     Born again believers are meant to view themselves neither with arrogant self-exaltation, or morbid self-loathing.

     “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

     Note that we are not to view ourselves “more highly than we ought,” which by implication means that there is a place for a somewhat high view of ourselves.  Certainly, God Himself thinks enough of us to redeem us from our sins rather than destroy us as a misbegotten and worthless race.  When considering the price He paid to do so, we must conclude that, again, we consider ourselves neither too highly nor too lowly.

      Much is lost in our Christian experience by either arrogance or a misguided humility that does not reflect Biblical teaching.  The former error we understand more clearly, because Scripture continually declares pride to be the prelude of failure and destruction.  The call to humility, however, challenges our understanding because humbleness of heart and mind fills the pages of God’s Word, providing the very ground upon which all of His graces are received and spiritually assimilated.   

     How then are we to view ourselves?  We will consider this vital matter over the next several days.  For now, let us simply propose that apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all helpless, hopeless and lost.  By definition, however, the born again believer is not apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.  His presence and working on our behalf actualizes a humanity created by God, and purposed by Him for wondrous things in both time and eternity.   Understanding both aspects of our existence goes far in providing a proper perspective of ourselves and the life in Christ to which God has redeemed us.

“Without Me, ye can do nothing.”
(John 15:5)
“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)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

“The Better, the Greater, the More Filling”

     Not all our dreams and desires will be fulfilled by the time we reach the end of our lives, a thought that should cause us to greatly rejoice.

     “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

     Longed for, but unattained things and experiences during our earthly sojourn will provide God opportunity to fill empty places in us with infinitely greater heavenly realities than we could ever know upon the earth. 

     “In your best interests, and the benefit of those around you,” we may hear our Father say in Heaven, “I could not satisfy that longing, or fulfill that dream during your natural lifetime.  So, come and see that which I have prepared for you to enjoy during a heavenly eternity that will fulfill your heart beyond all imagining.”

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).   We are not, however, promised that all natural blessings will be ours during our earthly sojourn.  Our Heavenly Father bestows His provision in accordance with His loving wisdom, as guided by His eternal purpose to honor His Son and conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus.  Those things - and they are many - that further this holy intention come to us as the gift of grace.  Those things not provided are also His gift of grace.  Indeed, while our desires and dreams matter to God, let us thank Him that our needs matter far more.
     In the heavenly places, some specially designed gift awaits us that will fill the particular void that pained us upon the earth.  Christ Himself will be the heart of the blessing, and we will know that the seemingly unanswered prayer was actually God’s loving postponement of a better blessing, a greater gift, and a more filling fulfillment.  Yes, some prayers will be answered, and some longings fulfilled not in a world that passes away, but in a forever that shall never end.  May we open eyes of faith to see the better, the greater, the more filling because of this we can be sure: our Heavenly Father will not disappoint us.

“The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
(Romans 8:18)

Monday, May 21, 2012

“A New Creature”

      I've been having trouble with my laptop keyboard recently. Yesterday, the problem became severe, and Frances (brilliant, as always) came up with the idea of plugging in an old desktop keyboard I can use until we get a new part for my laptop.

     Life is often like that. We improvise until and if we can repair or replace things that aren't working properly. God, on the hand, does not merely repair and replace as He administers His saving grace in those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

    The new birth does not merely change who and what we are. It rather births a person who did not exist before the Spirit of Christ entered into the heart. In the deepest part of us, the very heart of us, we are not who we were before we believed. We are not merely ourselves, but we are ourselves as united to the Lord Jesus.  Christ lives in us, we live in Christ, and together, life is known as "we" rather than simply me or He.

    Certainly, we do not always feel and think accordingly, nor do we perfectly act as if our Savior dwells with and within us.  We need frequent reminders of the “new creature” we are in Christ, reminders that illuminate us primarily by the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and our fellow believers.  How easily we feel ourselves to be alone, and how stridently our spiritual enemies seek to convince us that this is indeed the case.  Never is it true, however, that we are merely ourselves.  Again, the born again Christian lives in both time and eternity with Somebody.  We’re not merely a “me,” and we’re surely not “He.”  We are a “we.”
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee “ promises the Lord who joyfully made our heart His home when we believed (Hebrews 13:5). 

     The “new creature” we are in Christ was “created in righteousness and true holiness” because it exists in such spiritual proximity to God that the Apostle Paul wrote, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (Ephesians 4:24; I Corinthians 6:17).   Our Heavenly Father continually works by His Spirit to illuminate, encourage and challenge us to remember the wondrous gift given when we believed, the gift of Himself to our hearts.  May we continually respond with the affirmation of “We!”, and thus, with the remembrance that salvation in the Lord Jesus did not merely repair or replace us.   It rather birthed us as a new creation forever united to the One who died to make our hearts His home.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20)

Friday, May 18, 2012


       Based on personality type and experience, people naturally tend to look at the glass as half empty or half full.

       Based on the generosity of God, born again believers supernaturally look at the glass as overflowing.

      Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over (Psalm 23:5).
     Note the venue where David’s cup overflowed, and his head was anointed with oil – “in the presence of mine enemies.”  The Psalmist saw that God’s most bountiful bestowal of Himself and His blessing comes not at the table of pleasant and obviously bountiful experience.  Instead, we are to expect God’s best when appearances would tell us that the cup is neither half full or empty, but rather swept from the table and shattered on the floor.
     “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). 
     The “things” to which the Apostle Paul refers are “tribulation… distress… persecution… famine… nakedness… or peril… sword” (Romans 8:35).  Such a perspective is counterintuitive to either the half full or the half empty perspective.  Only the Holy Spirit can motivate and empower such an abundant heart in the midst of seeming destitution.  This He does in the heart of believers, and this we must believe in those times when all seems lost, and hope but a memory.  Regardless of how we feel, or what thoughts may be running through our head, we are actually sitting at a bountiful table, with anointed head and overflowing cup.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself conducts the feast, and if we will lift our eyes to behold, He will serve us in a manner not possible when we sit in the presence of friends.
     Again, this we must believe.  Our faith began in the presence of enemies who nailed our Savior to a cross of death that became for us a crown of life.  Thus, we should expect to discover the richest feast in the sorest famine, and thus, we see that “my cup runneth over” in those times when half empty is a lie, and half full does not begin to tell the extent of God’s provision.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
(John 10:10)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"To the Artist"

(a repeat from 2010)

     Admiring creation without worshipping the Creator is like viewing the beauty of art while ignoring the creativity and work of the artist.

     For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

     The eternal power and Godhead of creation's Maker is the most evident feature of all things. "The whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Missing the Creator therefore involves a moral rather than intellectual error, as stated plainly in the indictment declared by the Lord Jesus Christ: "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).

     I thought of this today while visiting the incredibly beautiful Walden Pond, the site lived upon and written about by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was a transcendentalist fascinated by nature, believing it to be the expression of spiritual realities.  He did not view a personal God as the heart of those realities, however, and saw creation according to the pantheistic view that God and creation are one in substance, but different in expression. Thoreau saw the shadow of the Creator's hand, as it were, and knew it to be transcendent. He nevertheless ignored the obvious Heart and Mind that moves the hand of God, particularly in terms of His relationship to humanity.

     The Lord Jesus' indictment reveals that such neglect originates in man's desire to avoid the spiritual and moral intrusion of God upon our lives. A creator who merely makes a beautiful universe may be admired. A Creator, however, who commands our worship, faith, and obedience requires our acknowledgement of His rightful claim upon us. There is no kneeling before Thoreau's god.  Before the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, however, the believer gladly bows in both reverent awe and loving devotion. We lose our natural life in the act of such abnegation, but it is a damaged life anyway. We regain a new life in the process, a life wondrously united with the very life of God Himself, through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17).

     Creation provides a gallery of sublime wonder and beauty. It testifies of the Artist who made all things, and whose glory immanently fills all things. There is no greater tragedy than to behold beauty, while failing to acknowledge and kneel before the beautiful Artist whose exhibition is a beautiful universe.  Conversely, there is no greater fulfillment than adding a heart of grateful worship to the experience of wonder.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."
(Psalm 19:1-4)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

“Seeking the Living – Among the Dead”

      “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way” (Psalm 119:37).

    Left to ourselves, we seek fulfillment in things that have no fulfillment to offer.  The Psalmist understood this about himself, and thus prayed that God would actively engage in the work of wrenching his gaze from vanity unto the path of life.

    The world, the devil and the flesh tell us that dead things possess the potential to fill and fulfill our hearts.  No one is excluded from the temptation to this wayward gaze, including the most godly among us.  Thus, we must join the Psalmist in asking God to show us where we are seeking the living among the dead. 

     Our Lord’s answer will involve every aspect of our inner sensibilities.  Thought patterns, attitudes, beliefs and affections all possess the potential to cause us to “behold vanity.”  Indeed, it may feel good to think and believe a certain way, or to hold an attitude with which we have become comfortable.   “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man” declared Solomon.  The wise man didn’t stop there, however.  “But the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Only God can fully deliver us from spiritually and morally wandering through graveyards, as it were, hoping and expecting to find life in venues of death.

     “Heavenly Father, we join the Psalmist in seeking Your aid in redirecting our gaze from death unto life.  Show us where we are seeking the living among the dead.  Cause us to see the wickedness and insanity of such a futile pursuit.  Turn our hearts toward life, the life of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and the truth of Your Word.  Thank You for Your patience and mercy, and for Your promise to continue Your work in us until our gaze is ever and only upon You.  In the name of the Lord Jesus we pray, Amen.”

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

“To Your Remembrance” Part 2

     “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26).

     While serving as a detective, our son Noah was assigned to escort a noted author who visited our city to deliver a series of lectures.  Noah’s selection resulted from his familiarity with the author’s works.  He had read his books to the degree that they were dog-eared and well worn, a fact that greatly blessed the author when Noah asked him to autograph a copy of one of his books.

   In similar manner, born again believers receive God’s light based upon our voluntary exposure to that which forms within us a lamp to receive illumination.

    “I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given” (Luke 19:26).

     Consistent reading of Scripture prepares our wick, as it were, for the Holy Spirit’s igniting of God’s flame of truth.  As in Noah’s experience, a dog-eared, well worn Bible makes it far more likely that its sacred pages will lead to personal relationship with their sacred Author.  The Holy Spirit teaches those who desire to learn, as evidenced by their devotion to the Word of God.

    Much of the Light we receive from reading the Bible shines forth not in the hour in which we read, but rather in later experiences of the Holy Spirit’s bringing to our remembrance those truths that personally and pointedly impact our lives.  Understanding this truth greatly enhances our motivation to consistently ponder the Scriptures, whereby we become prepared lamps for God’s light.  “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27).  Indeed, the personal illumination of today may result from Biblical considerations that took place months, years, or even decades ago.  Furthermore, that which we read today may make possible future experiences of our Lord meeting us along the pathways we tread in a manner that assures our hearts of His personal presence and involvement in our lives.

“In Thy light shall we see light.”
(Psalm 36:9)

Monday, May 14, 2012

“To Your Remembrance”

     For 3 years, the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ heard His words.  Subsequently, the Holy Spirit, given to indwell their hearts after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, would use those words to teach and illuminate their hearts.

     “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26).

     In similar manner, the Holy Spirit uses the words of God that we read in Scripture to teach and illuminate our hearts.  We have no experience of audibly hearing the Lord Jesus speak.  We do possess the Bible, however, and our reading of its sacred pages provides grist for the mill, as it where, whereby the Holy Spirit’s personal teaching ministry reveals the living Christ unto and within us.  However, the illumination may not happen at the time we read, but rather at a time subsequent to our reading.

     Often when we open the Scriptures, we have no sense of learning some new and thrilling truth.  As with the disciples and the Lord’s words, we later find the Holy Spirit using words stored in our minds.  Perhaps in times of blessing, or times of challenge, or times of ministry to others, or just times, our Lord brings to remembrance those truths of the Bible that personally apply to our hearts, lives and circumstances.  “Oh, that’s what it means!” we realize as the Spirit of God causes the Christ of Scripture to become the Christ of this moment and this experience.  Our hearts “burn within us” as our risen Savior walks with us along our personal road to Emmaus, opening the Scriptures’ meaning, intent and content (Luke 24:32).

    Perhaps today’s Scripture reading will provide opportunity for the Lord to meet with us somewhere far down the road.  Consistent exposure to the Word of God makes such personal relationship possible.  Understanding this truth infuses our regular reading with a sense of purpose and expectation, as well as challenging us to recognize the importance of filling our hearts and minds with the Scriptures.

“Thy words were found, and I did eat them.  And Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
(Jeremiah 15:16)

Friday, May 11, 2012

“Our Prison, Our Epistle”

    From a Roman prison, the Apostle Paul wrote the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
      These letters would likely not exist had Paul not been incarcerated.  He would have visited the churches and people rather than pen the passages and verses that would become part of the Word of God.  Thus, missing from the Bible would be some of its brightest illumination regarding the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with the promises, commands, encouragements and challenges that lead born again believers into vibrant relationship with God.
    Indeed, can you imagine a Bible without the following?
     “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
    What prison are you in, and what epistle will you write by trusting and submitting unto God in binding circumstances and conditions that no prayer or effort changes?  Our “incarcerations” come in myriads of ways unique to ourselves, and to God’s purposes in our lives.  We are not apostles, of course, but neither is our Lord a “respecter of persons” (Ephesians 6:9).  We can therefore be sure that our personal and particular hour of difficult circumstance that keeps us from living life as we would choose provides opportunity to reveal the crucified and risen Lord Jesus to our world.
    As with Paul, we may not in this lifetime discover the far-reaching impact of the Light that shines in and from our prison.  We can only have confidence that it will.  Our Lord wastes nothing in the lives of His trusting children, no, not a moment, not a joy, not a pain, not a smile, not a tear.  He wastes nothing.  Let us therefore lift our heads in the darkness of our cell, as it were, to see the Light that glimmers most beautifully and brightly against the backdrop of darkness.  The “prison” that binds us is actually a candle upon which a singular flame of glory shines forth unto us as we open our eyes.  But even more, the flame will somehow warm and illuminate others through the years and ages in ways that could never exist had we not penned our epistle in our prison.
“Unto the upright, there ariseth light in the darkness.
(Psalm 112:4)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

“Gerry and Elaine”

    Two years ago today, our family embarked on a trip to Boston and New York City we will never forget.  From an overnight stay in Tennessee with beloved friends, to an unexpected detour to Lexington,Virginia (where we visited the house of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson), to seeing the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park (on the coldest night in recorded history, in my opinion), to hearing John Williams conduct the Boston Symphony, to happening upon Walden Pond, to seeing the wonders of New York City from both its streets and the top of Rockefeller Center, to visiting the Statue of Liberty (where the single most patriotic person in the United States, Frances, was frisked, puffed, and treated as a suspected terrorist), to eating some of the best food we’ll ever taste (thank God for Roccos!), the journey was a gift of God in these and countless other ways.

     When thinking of the trip, however, that which most comes to mind involves a dear couple we met in New York’s Central Park.  Gerry introduced himself to Frances on a park bench while I made a visit to the restroom, and when I returned, we also met his wife Elaine.  Gerry is a retired minister (well, not really.  True ministers never actually retire, and Gerry certainly hasn’t).  He sang a hymn to us before we parted ways, quite beautifully, and we had a wonderful time with him and Elaine.  As we parted ways, we shared email addresses, and the last two years have blessed us with many wonderful phone calls (as well as a cherished tape of some of the songs Gerry sings).

      As we live our lives, the Lord will bless us with things, places, events, sights and sounds.  Most of all, however, He will bless us with Himself, and with people.  Or, He may bless us with Himself through people.  This is certainly the case with Gerry and Elaine.  Indeed, Lexington, Boston and New York offered us many wonderful moments and experiences we remember with much gratitude.  But none compare with Gerry and Elaine, who are more, far more, to us than mere memories.

     I must add that the last few years have been especially challenging ones for our friends.  Gerry and Elaine’s daughter Amy went to be with the Lord last year after a long and courageous struggle with cancer.  Throughout her trial, she honored her Savior in an especially blessed way, as did her parents, and I was privileged to witness Gerry and Elaine unwaveringly walk with God despite the great pains of loss they felt (and still feel).  As so many of you have been to me over the years, this dear couple served as examples of our Lord’s faithfulness in both blessing and difficulty.  “The God of all comfort” revealed Himself in Gerry and Elaine, and I will seek to remember and follow the path they paved so well (II Corinthians 1:3).

      As this is written, Gerry and Elaine are preparing to embark on another trip to see friends.  I wish I could say the same for us, in hopes that we might again “happen upon” them somewhere along the road.  That won’t be the case this time, but I recall Gerry’s parting words that fateful day in Central Park.  “If we don’t see each other again here, we will There” he said, looking upward.  Amen, my dear brother, and Godspeed to you and Elaine in your present travels.  We are grateful for you, and I love sharing the story of a seemingly chance meeting that was actually purposed and directed from eternity past by the Father who so loves to bring His children together.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”
(Philippians 1:3-5)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

“The Mystery of Me!”

      No less than the Apostle Paul confessed that he could not understand himself.

     “For that which I do I allow (know or understand) not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15).

       “Know thyself” encouraged the philosopher.  The Bible, conversely, declares that adequate self-awareness cannot be attained by our own efforts.  Who are we, really?  Why do we do the things we do, for both good and ill?  How can we maintain the former, and overcome the latter?  These are questions for which we find only the most partial of answers by our own attempts at self-discovery. 

     Of all the reasons to trust God, the knowledge of ourselves is one of the most important.  “O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me” declared the Psalmist (Psalm 139:1).  Fewer more comforting statements exist in the pages of Scripture.  There is someone who fathoms the mystery of me!  Someone finds me worthy of knowing, and even more amazingly, of loving regardless of His findings!  The God of Scripture possesses such insight and inclination, and He calls us to fling ourselves into His heart of grace with complete abandon. 

     As we trust Him, our Heavenly Father will reveal to us that which we need to know about ourselves.  Doubtless, some things will disturb us, and require that we humble ourselves in honest acknowledgement and repentance.  For the born again believer, however, many of God’s findings will thrill us as we discover that we are not merely ourselves.  “Ye are the temple of God” (I Corinthians 3:16).  Indeed, boil a Christian down to his or her essence, and that which remains is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus united to our innermost being.  This our Heavenly Father sees most vividly, even as the New Testament so often affirms despite so much evidence to the contrary.  He would have us join Him in such a perspective of grace whereby the light of God enables us to more consistently walk by the life of God. 

     Rather than introspection, we seek primarily God’s inspection.  We examine ourselves by seeking the insight of the One who knows us perfectly.  Thereby we think rightly about ourselves, as “In Thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).  And thereby the most important thing about us, the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ, more and more shines forth both within and without.

“Thou, God, seest me.”
(Genesis 16:13)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

“The Dew”

      Most of what we learn in life comes from voices and vehicles that pass into forgetfulness, even as the lessons they taught remain.

     This is as it should be, especially regarding the spiritual truths we learn from others.  Who said it, who wrote it, or who exemplified it does not matter.  Who sent the light and truth does matter.  Of course, we do well to give thanks for the human messengers whereby God reveals Himself to us.  We direct our focus, however, upon the “Father of lights,” from whom we receive “every good gift, and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).

     Those who communicate the Word of God to others (which includes all believers in some manner) must bear this remembrance continually in our hearts.  We are to be as the dew that brought manna to Israel in the morning, and then quietly melted away into forgottenness.  The manna remained.  That which mattered remained.  The dew, however, fled away so as not to distract from the precious sustenance it delivered. 

    Our Heavenly Father honors us to serve as the means by which the Bread of life blesses others.  He honors us even more by removing us from the scene as the true Giver and the recipient meet to bless the hearts of one another.  This is ministry in its truest and most effectual sense, and this is the ministry for which we all should pray.  We are the dew.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the manna.  May He remain as we melt away into the forgottenness that removes all distraction from the holy bond of the Provider and the partaker.

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.  And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.”
(Exodus 16:14-15)

Monday, May 7, 2012

“Getting In the Way”

      Biblical Christianity does not involve only God, and it certainly does not involve only man.  It rather involves God and man, or more pointedly, God in man.

    “Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16).

     Occasionally, believers say or pray, “Lord, get me out of the way so you can work free and unhindered.”  While the sentiment is perhaps humble and noble, the idea is not Biblical.  Rather than eliminating or annihilating our humanity and its faculties, God purposes to resurrect and redeem them for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Beginning in His beloved Son, our Heavenly Father instituted a union of the Divine and human whereby two seemingly opposing realms unite to accomplish His purposes.  The Lord Jesus was (and is) the God who is man, and the man who is God.  Both aspects of His unique personage comprise the fullness of our Lord’s being, and neither could be “gotten out of the way” without destruction of the whole.

     While we are not Divine in our person, we are “habitations of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).  Through Christ, God and man unite in the born again believer, with both parties remaining distinct in their person and being.  As in the Savior, neither component could be removed without complete distortion of God’s purpose in birthing the unique creation that is the “Christian.”  Rather than getting us “out of the way,” our Father seeks to get us in the way.  That is, He works to teach us that our human members and faculties are His “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13).  They remain unperfected at present, and certainly, we misuse them when succumbing to devilish and carnal purposes.  Nevertheless, the Spirit of God works incessantly to redeem our humanity unto its intended purpose of being “a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Timothy 2:21).

     True Christianity is not simply the Treasure, nor is it only the earthen vessels.  It is, as the Apostle Paul declared, “This Treasure in earthen vessels” (II Corinthians 4:7).  We will forever be the human home of the Divine, even as are in this present hour.  There is something about us that makes us the most potentially God-revealing and glorifying creature in all of His handiwork.  Thus, our Lord works to get us in the way for the purpose of displaying the wonder of His nature, character and redeeming work of grace…

“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)

Friday, May 4, 2012

“The Gift of a Wife”

(for us, Gentlemen)

     As referenced yesterday, I find interesting Adam’s response to God’s gift to him of Eve.

     “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23).

     Note the lack of gratitude, and the focus not on God, but on himself.  This occured before Adam sinned, of course, and the point we made yesterday is that we may see in Adam’s neglect the susceptibility to temptation that would later result in direct disobedience to God’s command.

     For husbands, our original forefather’s experience presents a vital lesson regarding our attitude toward both God and our wives.

     “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
     “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19).

    If wives are gifts of God, as Solomon declares, the natural response of husbands must involve an ongoing attitude of gratitude.  Unlike Adam, the believing husband seeks to remember and give thanks for the qualities and actions of his wife that bless him.  This counters any temptation to bitterness because gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist in the human heart. 

     Cultivating and maintaining thanksgiving for our wives greatly blesses both them and the God who gave them to us.  Our own hearts are also greatly benefitted because “he that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:28).  The believing husband who bears such an attitude, as wrought by the indwelling Holy Spirit, reveals the love of Christ in a sublime and sanctifying way (for his wife and for himself).  He also greatly honors the Lord Jesus, that great Husband of the church who looks toward His Father with much gratitude for the gift we are to Him…

“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.”
(Hebrews 2:13)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

“Wandering Lamb… Faithful Shepherd”

     Even before sin entered the human equation, one could see the characteristics that would make Adam susceptible to temptation.

    “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). 
     Note the conspicuous absence of gratitude to God in Adam for so great a gift as Eve.  No thanksgiving or praise is recorded, and no Godward acknowledgement of any kind.  Instead, “my… my” becomes the focus, even to the point that Adam emphasizes his involvement in Eve’s origin – “she was taken out of man.” 

    After he sinned by directly disobeying the commandment of God, self-exaltation and ingratitude became the dominant sensibility in Adam and all his subsequent progeny.  Left to itself, humanity would possess no thought or consideration of the One who originated our being, sustains it, and gives to us “life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25).  We are innately blind to the great fact of our existence, and thus require proactive works of illumination by God to open our darkened eyes.  “There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). 

     Thankfully, our Heavenly Father loves us with an unwavering devotion despite our chosen waywardness.  He reveals Himself in the world, in His Word, and in our hearts by the working of the Holy Spirit sent to illuminate us to the One in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  In those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God works to educate us, remind us, and open our eyes to that which should be obvious to all, but is not. 

     In my own heart and life, I find that despite the fact of how much I preach, teach, write, read and converse with other believers, much of my experience still belies a neglect of God and His loving involvement in my life.  How much I miss by my dullness and failure to acknowledge the great fact of my existence!  Even more, however, how faithful our Good Shepherd is to His frequently wandering lamb!  Perhaps you feel the same way.  If so, let us take this moment together to open our hearts and eyes to reality, the reality of the God who saturates our existence despite our too frequent ignorance and ingratitude.

“Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD.”
(Psalm 118:19)