Tuesday, July 31, 2012

“For Us”

     “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

     That God could be “for” any member of a race whose collective sins led to His Son’s sorrowful and torturous death on the cross of Calvary speaks to a gracious mercy beyond comprehension.

    Nevertheless, all who receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ become recipients of Divine acceptance and favor.  Each of the Apostle Paul’s epistles begins with the blessing of “grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).  This includes the salutation of favor to both the faithful Romans believers and the wayward Corinthians.  God was “for” all recipients of Paul’s letters, just as He forever remains abundantly supportive of every trusting son and daughter in Christ.

     Of course, this does not mean that He condones or accepts attitudes and behaviors that fail to correspond with the character of the Christ who dwells within us to enable godliness of spirit, soul and body.  Nor does it mean that a supportive Heavenly Father will not chasten us when we stray.  To the contrary, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).  Because He is for us, our Lord disciplines us as necessary, bringing difficulty into our lives when difficulty alone will open our eyes and redirect our steps.  No parental loves exists that excludes the application of discipline, even as Solomon declared, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him” (Proverbs 13:24).

     The born again believer can always look toward Heaven in certainty of God’s loving heart and attitude.  Through the atoning work and intercession of Christ on our behalf, our Father is eternally “for us.”  Much comfort assures our hearts as we remember this blessed truth.  Moreover, much challenge tempers our hearts as we recall that God’s support presently requires firm chastening as well as the tender caress.

“He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.”
(Ephesians 1:6)
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”
(Hebrews 12:7)   

Monday, July 30, 2012

“Open His Eyes”

    “When the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?  And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (II Kings 6:15-17).

     One of the best prayers born again believers can pray for each other echoes Elisha’s prayer for his servant – “Open his eyes, that he may see.”  The Apostle Paul offered such an intercession for Christians in the New Testament.

      “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Ephesians 1:15-18).

     Paul proceeded to request that the Ephesian believers might see the hope, riches and power they possessed in the risen Christ.  Again, we can pray few better prayers for others, and we can hope for few better prayers for ourselves, as prayed by others.  The encouraged believer will likely be a faithful believer who avails himself of the abundant life of Christ that indwells our spirits.  Indeed, Paul called Philemon to a challenging act of obedience  “by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1:6).  The more our eyes are opened to God’s freely given “unsearchable riches of Christ,” the more our heart, hands, and feet are likely to live accordingly.

     Let us pray for each other, “Open his eyes, that he may see.”  Much grace known, received, and applied will result, and the enormity of Christ’s salvation will shine forth from us for the glory of God and the blessing of others.

“Awake to righteousness and sin not.”
(I Corinthians 15:34)

Friday, July 27, 2012

“No Other Way”

     Our memory verse this week speaks to the truth that human beings require a mediator between God and ourselves, a go between who gives us access, standing, and freedom of relationship with our Creator and ourselves.  Only one exists, and we require only one.

    “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

     The God who is man and the man who is God unite the Divine and human, first in Himself, and then in all united to Him by faith.  The Lord Jesus first brings God to us by making justification possible without violating our Heavenly Father’s holiness (Romans 3:26).  Then, our Savior brings us to God by filling our hearts with the confident assurance that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).  Christ satisfies the requirements of God and meets the need of man in bringing parties together where it might seem that “never the twain shall meet.”   We more than meet, however, as the Holy Spirit births all who trust the Lord Jesus into family relationship with our Father in Heaven.

     All who approach God with a humble heart that trusts in Christ alone will find Him available and desirous of close relationship.  Seeking the Lord by other ways, however, will crash upon the rocks of falsehood and unbelief as wayward supplicants seek Heavenly approach by earthly means.

    “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8).

     The person and work of the Lord Jesus long ago paved a pathway to God.  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-22).  So long as we come through Christ and Christ alone, we may always “enter into the holiest.”  No other way exists for either faithful saint or wicked sinner.  Moreover, no other way is necessary.

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”
(John 14:6).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"The Family"

(a repeat from 2010, and a tribute to our youngest, Emmie, on the occasion of her 21st birthday.)

    It does no violence to the Scriptural record to propose that God exists in the nature and substance of family.

    The Bible states that "there is one God" (I Timothy 2:5). It also teaches that three distinct personalities exist in the oneness of Divinity.

   "Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation" (Psalm 89:26).
   "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).
    "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 2:4-5).

    God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three sublime personalities so intrinsically united in nature, character, and being that "They" are one. A plurality in unity, a unity in plurality, and herein lies the reference to family.  Our own experience tells us that distinct persons can be so bound in heart that oneness is easily the best way to describe the loving union. The love of husband and wife, parents and children, and sibling with sibling united in the bond of family reveals that, in God's creation, unity and plurality are mutually inclusive rather than exclusive.

     We need little understanding or explanation for such glory. Some realities we know in ways so sublimely beautiful that no description is possible. I recall an evening with our family many years ago, when our children were still young and all lived at home. We sat around a table at a favorite restaurant.  The banter was lively, with much laughter and enjoyment.  For a brief moment, I sat back to gaze upon and listen to the four people so dear to my heart. I cannot explain or describe that moment, but deep within my depths, I knew then (and I still know) that God gave me a glimpse of something so beautiful that tears streamed down my face (as they do now in recollection). The "something" concerned my own family, no doubt. I realized the amazing gift I had been given.   However, I also believe that the glimpse involved more. I think it involved God Himself, and a hint at the wonder of His triune heart and being.

     I came away from the moment believing that God can be defined, in His essence, in terms of family. He is one and yet He is three; He is three and yet He is one. The Bible proclaims the enigma, and the God of the Bible provides the most definitive and influential aspect of our lives - family - as a window into who and what He is. Indeed, family is elemental in the existence of humanity because humanity's Maker exists in the same wonderful reality. Yes, in essence, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit comprise a family.

      Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are now part of this “whole family in Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15). We are adopted sons and daughters, of course, and will never become God, as He exists in His essence. However, we are spiritually united to the Lord Jesus so closely that we are "in Christ," our Heavenly Father having drawn us as near to Himself as created beings can be.  Our Savior prayed for our entree into such glory, and then died and rose again to make Heaven our eternal home not only in place, but also in personal kinship to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."
(John 17:20-21)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Joy, Where It Cannot Be

     Before He returned to Heaven by way of the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ intensified His teaching of the disciples (John 13-16), and then informed them of the reason for His amplified discourse.

     “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).

     Only recently have I considered the joyful time the Lord Jesus and His disciples knew during their time together.  Indeed, if the Savior desired that His joy “remain” in His closest followers, it must have been present with them.  Our Lord rejoiced in His time with Peter, James, John and the other men who had left their previous lives in order to live and minister with Him.  “My joy” He mentions, and then declares His great desire that the disciples’ joy “might be full.”

     Our Heavenly Father has no interest in any relationship with us that does not include rejoicing.  Neither should we.  Of course, we reference not a silly and unbiblical joy that merely involves giddy happiness.  The Bible does not define joy in such terms.  No, the joy of Christ rather provides a deep sense of well being that manifests itself in both good times and bad, whether happy or sad emotions characterize our experience.  Indeed, the believer who walks by faith often knows joy and sorrow dwelling concurrently in his heart - “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (II Corinthians 6:10).  The Lord Jesus alone provides such a miracle of grace wherein His living presence enables a reality of rejoicing deep within even as hot tears may be streaming down our face.

     Long ago, God chastened Israel because “thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47).  The New Testament challenges born again believers in similar fashion, calling us to rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).  This mandate could not exist if abiding joy were not possible, or if our Lord was not strongly committed to the joy of our hearts.  Let us therefore expect joy where it seems that it cannot be, based on the living presence of a Savior whose joy abides with us so that our joy might be full.

“Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God my God.”
(Psalm 43:4)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is It True?

     Satan ever seeks to foment illusion that leads to delusion.

     Referred to in Scripture as “the god of this world,” our enemy empowers a vast system of deceiving influences, using images, ideas, innuendo and intrigue to present notions to our minds that may begin as mere whims, but which can result in grave darkness leading to countless negative spiritual, moral and physical pathologies in our lives (II Corinthians 4:4).

     “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). 

    The devil primarily targets born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ with deception and distraction.  He has already “blinded the minds of them which believe not” (II Corinthians 4:4).  Thus, we expect such ones to possess minds full of strange, perverse and destructive notions.  Christians, however, should expect to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (I John 1:7).  We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the influence of fellow believers to keep our hearts and minds illuminated.  Satan wars against us nevertheless, allowed by God to tempt us with darkness in order to provide opportunity for greater availing ourselves of Divine light.

     Do we recognize the workings of our enemy, and the proclivity of our flesh to respond to his deceptions?  If so, a question must often present itself to our minds about God, life, people, circumstances, events, and ourselves.  “Is what I am believing true?  Or have I responded to the lies of the world, the flesh (including my own) and the devil?”  We best respond to this question with the request voiced by the Psalmist, who wisely recognized his susceptibility to deception, and more importantly, the only One who could deliver him…

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Put Off... Put On"

(a repeat from last year)

     A life of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to God involves much replacement, or in Biblical terms, much putting off and putting on.
     “If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
     When tempted to disbelieve and disobey our Heavenly Father, merely trying to refrain from sin does not suffice in overcoming the challenge. We must replace the initial response of our fleshly humanity with thought and consideration concerning the matter at hand - "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" - and then “put on” righteous and genuinely holy characteristics of who we are in Christ.
     The Apostle Paul illustrated his teaching with an easily understood temptation.
     Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).
     To those whose life before Christ involved theft, and who may still as believers be similarly tempted, Paul commands that work and giving replace the carnality of stealing. The Apostle does not simply command the Ephesian believers to avoid the selfishness of theft, but to devote themselves to those activities that make generosity and self sacrifice possible. We put off theft by putting on work and giving.  Decisive action, based on a mind renewed by Scripture, ensures that the believer’s heart engages in a positive, proactive manner that replaces works of the flesh with the characteristics of Christ.
    The human heart and mind do not exist in a vacuum. Thoughts, attitudes and sensibilities move within us at all times, leading to corresponding actions. “Out of the heart are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). When we become aware of fleshly inclinations and stimulations contrary to the Word of God, our calling involves both the negative of “Through the power of Christ, I will not think, say and do that,” and the positive of “Through the power of Christ, I will think, say and do this.” All is possible because the Holy Spirit dwells within us to enable the putting off, putting on process of faith.
     This dynamic way of faith applies to all temptation. Indeed, regarding the fleshly stimulations that personally affect us, seeking God's "put on" replacement goes far in enabling more consistent overcoming and obedience. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus dwells in us if we have believed, making possible the replacement of the human with the Divine...
"Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof."
(Romans 13:14)

Friday, July 20, 2012

“The Friend of Our Hearts”

    Anything that causes us to seek and trust God is the friend of our hearts.

     “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

    Note that the Apostle Paul didn’t write that he felt pleasure in his difficulties.  Paul was as human as the rest of us, initially reacting to sorrowful circumstances with normal aversion and mourning (II Corinthians 4:8-9).  He did, however, take pleasure by remembering and affirming that those things that reveal our human frailties provide opportunity to avail ourselves of Divine enabling.  Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seek to “be strong in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).  Adversity, in whatever form and to whatever degree, motivates our hearts to remember God and His promises to infuse us with a strength that originates in Him and not ourselves.

    “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (II Corinthians 1:8-9).

     Sometimes “friends” come to us in strange garb.  Pain, loss, destruction and heartache hardly seem like companions to welcome.  If, however, they lead us to “not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead,” we will discover a transcendent Life beyond the norm of human existence.  Indeed, we will discover the great Friend of our heart Himself, coming to us in ways difficult when first we see Him on our doorstep, but blessed when we embrace Him and invite Him into our painful circumstance.  Again, anything that causes us to seek and trust God is the friend of our hearts.  Anything.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”
(Psalm 119:67)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“About As Well As We Want To”

“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh unto you” (James 4:8).

    I strongly believe in what theologians refer to as God’s “prevenience,” that is, our Lord is always before us, always ahead of us, and always preceding our response to Him.  Thus, the declaration of James regarding drawing near to our Lord has always intrigued me.  How is it that God seems to put the ball in our court, as it were, regarding intimate spiritual relationship with Him?

    If James’ statement were the only light in Scripture about the matter, we would have to conclude that we are in control of how closely we walk with the Lord.  This is the not the case, however.

     “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).
    “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
     “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44).

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ do in fact respond to God’s moving upon us and within us whenever we relate to Him.  He does not force the issue, however, because our Heavenly Father has established within us a real relationship that would mean nothing to Him if we were merely programmed automatons.  Nor would it mean anything to us.  As in the Old Testament sacrifice of “freewill offerings” practiced by the children of Israel, so are New Testament believers privileged to approach our Lord in a genuineness of communion that blesses both His heart and ours (Leviticus 22:18).

     Our Lord dwells with us to the degree He dwells within us in terms of spiritual proximity.  In this regard, He can be no closer to us than He is at all times.  In terms of communication, fellowship, and a shared Life consciously experienced, however, James reveals that God draws near only to a certain point.  In the most amazing condescension of humility and grace, He leaves much of the determination to us.  A.W. Tozer once wrote, “We will know God about as well as we want to.”  James confirms, and no greater privilege or challenge presents itself to us in the pages of Scripture. 

     “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”   I find this truth both blessed and troubling.  Perhaps you share my sentiment, and if so, we can do nothing better in this present moment than to “draw nigh,” seeking the God who so graciously and faithfully seeks us.

“Come unto Me.”
(Matthew 11:28)   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Blooms In the Desert”

     One of my favorite contemporary writers is a dear friend who is presently not writing, having been reassigned by his company to editorial duties.  He recently wrote an article for a magazine, however, and my friend obviously retains the gift God bestowed upon him for penning words that reach deep into the heart.

    “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1).

    Sometimes in life, no venue seems to exist for using obviously God-given abilities.  We may feel ourselves placed upon the shelf, as it were, with gifts still present, but apparently wasted.  We know better than to force the issue by attempting to artificially create our own opportunities.  Nevertheless, the question nags and perhaps even at times depresses.  “Why did God give me these gifts if He doesn’t intend for me to use them?”

     “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22).

     The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians closes with a not so veiled affirmation that he had pillaged “Caesar’s household” for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Rather than viewing himself as on the shelf when cast into prison, Paul recognized that lost opportunities to lead people to Christ in Asia Minor provided opportunity to do the same in the prison of Rome.  As Frances often says, Paul “bloomed where he was planted.”

     The friend I mentioned understands this truth and, like Paul,  presently blooms where he is planted.  Rather than mourn over lost opportunity, he views his editorial calling as God’s way for him at this particular hour in life.  I have little doubt he will again write regularly at some point in the future.   Rather than pine for that day, however, my friend recognizes the truth that this day provides opportunity for the believer’s most important gifting and calling: “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).  This attitude and perspective blesses the writers he edits, and more importantly, their readers benefit from his determination to bloom in faith rather than wilt in sorrow.

     Whether or not we find ourselves in the garden that seems most appropriate for our particular gifts, the joy of our hearts and the blessing of others result from our determination to trust and submit ourselves unto the God whose “way is perfect” (II Samuel 22:31).  We close with the prophet’s assurance that our Lord can plant gardens where no vine, no branch, and no flower seems possible…

“The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”
(Isaiah 35:1)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


     To “live by faith,” as both Old and New Testament command, involves an all-encompassing involvement of trusting and submitting unto God (Habakkuk 2:24; Romans 1:17).  Everything in our existence falls into the category of “live.”   Thus, the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ discovers life to be an ongoing challenge of faith, and often, crisis of faith.

    I recently saw a documentary about rock climbers, those brave or perhaps crazy souls who scale sheer faces of stone and granite with far less equipment than seems adequate to the task.  I cannot imagine the challenge the climbers must feel as they begin their ascent to their summit goal, or the exhilaration known when they succeed.  My hat’s off to them, and I can only say I am glad it’s them and not me seeking to defy gravity and granite.

     This being acknowledged, I nevertheless maintain that consistently trusting God calls the human heart to far greater challenge, and far great possibility of exhilaration as we reach summits beyond our human capacities.  Indeed, we also seem to possess far less equipment than the tasks of faith demand.  The spiritual gravity of a fallen world, as it were, seems to naturally escort us downward into unbelief and either spiritual pride or despair.  Believing the Word of God therefore involves countless challenges to make inward choices of faith that seem to counter everything we feel, think and sense.  Add to this the deceptions and distractions of spiritual enemies against whom we wrestle, and the challenge of living by faith becomes by far the sheerest face of rock any human heart can seek to ascend.

     Unlike natural rock climbers, believers do not make their ascent alone, or by their own devices.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:13).  Interestingly, the Word of God we are to believe is also the Word of God that fosters our capacity to believe.  Both the living Word, the Lord Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible, inspire our capacity to trust our Heavenly Father.  He works in us to motivate and enable our confidence (Philippians 2:12).  This does not guarantee that we will trust Him in every circumstance, of course, and Christians doubtless at times descend into deep pits of unbelief.  However, the Holy Spirit continually seeks to shine the spotlight upon God’s abiding faithfulness.  But a glance toward the Savior He illuminates can lift the believer from the mire of distrust and spiritual paralysis.

     In this day, the challenge lies before us, and above us.  May our hearts be filled with courage, the courage of those who know that our ascent unto godliness finds us accompanied by One who perfectly knows the sheer face of rock we must climb.  The Lord Jesus scaled it long ago, and He ascends again in and through His trusting children.  A life of the greatest adventure possible awaits those who recognize the challenge, but even more, who rejoice in the filled and thrilled hearts of those who consistently reach summits where the vista of God’s faithfulness shines forth in beauty and wonder.

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(Romans 15:13)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Oppression? Opportunity!

(Thanks to Larry and Jane for inspiration on this one.)

     Satan seeks to thwart God’s purposes, and in the short term, the Lord allows him to be successful.

    “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (I Thessalonians 2:18).

     God’s ultimate intentions cannot be thwarted.  “The Lord shall reign forever and ever…” God will “gather together in one all things in Christ”… “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (Exodus 15:18; Ephesians 1:10; I John 3:2).  Hosts of other Divine purposes beyond possibility of failure fill the pages of Scripture, assuring our hearts that all is well in the long term.

     Again, however, the short term presents a very different reality.  Our Heavenly Father often lengthens the leash of our enemies, granting them permission (as in the case of Job) to foist upon us great and grave challenges.  How we respond determines our experience in such times.  As we trust and submit unto God in times of devilish and fleshly attack, our hearts can remain at peace even as we feel the discomfort, uncertainty and pain our enemies foist upon us.  As a dear friend once testified after a hurricane severely damaged his house and property: “The outer courts are a shambles, but inner courts are at peace.”  My friend and his wife walked with the Lord through their trial, resulting in a testimony today of God’s faithfulness in the midst and aftermath of stormy trials. 

    The Apostle Paul did not whimper or cower because Satan hindered him from coming to the Thessalonians.  He rather used the circumstance to write two epistles of the New Testament that would likely not have existed had the devil not been allowed to thwart Paul’s honorable intentions.  For those who trust and submit unto God, His enemies always fall into the traps they form for the faithful (Psalm 9:15).  The cross of the Lord Jesus shines most brightly in this regard, as the devil motivated religious and political leaders to construct a gallows for Christ that would ultimately lead to glorious resurrection for both the Savior and the saved.  “Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).

     Every believer faces devilish hindrance.  We may or may not be aware of the specific nature of the challenge.  We therefore do well to seek our Heavenly Father’s guidance when challenge confronts us, seeking either deliverance from Satan’s attacks, or deliverance in those attacks.  Either way, the trusting believer overcomes enemies by the shield of faith that sees fiery darts as opportunity rather than oppression.  How will the Lord Jesus be revealed as King of kings and Lord of Lords in this conflict?  This is the question for all who live from His victory won on a cross that served as prelude for the resurrection, both His and ours…

“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
(I John 5:4)

Friday, July 13, 2012

“The Right People, the Right Time”

      Many years ago, during a practice round of our high school golf team, a storm drove a teammate and me under a rain shed.  Two gentlemen joined us and immediately introduced themselves.  One of the men began to talk to us about the Lord Jesus Christ, asking whether we were believers.  My teammate responded enthusiastically, being a committed Christian.  Conversely, I mumbled an uncertain “Yes” under my breath.  I considered myself a believer – I actually wasn’t – but I was uncertain enough to hope the rain would soon stop and the discussion would end.

    Six months later, I became a born again believer through the witness of a good friend.  I joined a large church in our city where the Lord Jesus was exalted and the Bible emphasized.  I met a staff member of the church, an evangelist, who took me under his wing and allowed me to join him when visiting prospects for the church and performing hospital ministry.  The evangelist and I became good friends, and discovered we both had an interest in golf.  We played a number of rounds together, and I soon discovered that my evangelist friend had once considered a professional golf career before becoming a Christian.  Boy, did I discover that!

     One day during a round, a thought occurred to me.  “Kelly, where you playing one day several years ago when a rain storm forced you to find shelter on the 6th hole at Gulf Pines?”  Kelly recalled such a time, and then we both looked at each other and smiled as a light went off in our heads.  “Was that you who I made so uncomfortable?!” asked Kelly.  “Man, I thought you were going to run out into the rain when I asked you about the Lord!”  It had been me, and Kelly and I shook our heads as we realized that God had brought us together on a golf course much sooner than we thought.

     God’s preparatory work in leading us to Himself requires many such moments of soil-tilling and seed-sowing, as it were.  Perhaps in Heaven, we will be allowed to know all that He did to reveal His saving grace to us, as well as our great need.  As we pray for others who have not believed, we do well to ask our Heavenly Father for such working in their lives.  I often request that He will orchestrate such events as happened to me on that stormy spring day under a rain shed.  I have no doubt that Kelly’s witness nurtured the seed planted in me by the truth I had long heard about the Lord Jesus.  The teammate I mentioned also shared Christ with me, and my conversion doubtless resulted in part from being with the right people at the right time.

     I haven’t seen Kelly or that teammate in years.  I still, however, give thanks for them when I think of the role they played in my life.  And I pray for others, that the Lord will send timely rainstorms into their lives, and even more timely witnesses of His ongoing purpose “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
(I Corinthians 3:5-7)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

“The Heart At Peace”

    If the peace of Christ does not rule our hearts, we can be sure of the diagnosis for our problem.

     Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through  Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
    The Apostle Paul proclaims a bedrock guarantee that peace results from “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.”  Making our requests known unto God stills our hearts and minds, revealing a peace “which passeth all understanding.”  In Paul’s words, however, there is a caveat.  That is, the prayers that still “hearts and minds” must proceed from hearts and minds. 

     “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). 

     Mere rote prayers do not suffice in challenges to our experience of the peace of God.  We must rather approach our Lord seriously, deliberately, thankfully, and with determination that we will pray in accordance with His Word.  “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

     Peace is never a matter of circumstance, situation or condition.  Peace is a matter of grace, received by faith.  The heart at peace is the heart that has genuinely prayed and supplicated with thanksgiving, the heart that has made requests  known unto God in truth and reality.  Again, Paul, and more importantly, the Holy Spirit who inspired his words, promise us that this is the case.  Thus, if we fail to experience the peace of Christ, we can know that which needs to happen.  We must approach our Heavenly Father, seeking first His grace to enable us to genuinely pray, and then expecting His grace to bestow tranquility of heart and mind.  No supplicant who responded to this truth ever found himself disappointed for doing so, and none ever will.

“To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
(Romans 8:6)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

“For Kings”

    “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (I Timothy 2:1-3).

     The Apostle Paul’s command that we pray for authorities in order that we may “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” involves two aspects of God’s peace.

     First, we ask that He would lead our leaders to make wise, intelligent and honest decisions that benefit the populace at large, as well as individuals.  This requires wisdom far beyond human capacities, and often far beyond the inclinations of those in authority.  Many are not believers, of course, and have no regard for Divine guidance and help.  Nevertheless, our prayers  lead to God’s influence upon even the most ungodly.  This does not mean that their decisions always reflect such influence, but it does make far more likely the moving of God’s Spirit upon leaders as we obey our Father’s command to pray.

    The second aspect of “a quiet and peaceable life” involves the peace of heart that results from faithful obedience to God.  He commands us to pray for authorities.  Failure to do so inevitably involves the forfeiture of the quiet and peace fostered by doing what He tells us to do.  Regardless of how authorities respond to God’s moving upon them in response to our intercessions, we can be absolutely sure of His moving upon us as we pray.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).  Peace results, along with the “godliness and honesty” that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ within our hearts, and through our attitudes, words and actions.

    Times such as these certainly require good leaders.  Good leaders require the prayers of God’s trusting children in Christ.  As one who far too often frets and criticizes rather than prays, I want to take Paul’s command far more seriously in days to come.  For me, and for every believer regarding this vital matter, our Lord promises quiet, peace, godliness and honesty in even the most troubled time.  May we respond to His moving within us to intercede for human authorities as the expression of our faith and submission to Divine authority.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Equipment Provided

    The jackhammer operator’s first day at work did not go well.  When his supervisor arrived at the end of the shift to inspect the operator’s work, he discovered that the concrete he had assigned not even scratched.  “I had a tough time, Boss, and my hands and fingers are worn almost to the bone!”  The supervisor looked at the man in bewilderment.   “Are you telling me that you tried to break up the concrete with your bare hands?!”  “Yes, responded the new operator.  “Why in the world did you do that?,” shouted the supervisor, “Why didn’t  you use the jackhammer we provided?!”  The man looked at his boss, and said, “Well, it looked old, and I just didn’t think it would work.”  The supervisor glared at the operator in exasperation, and then picked up the jackhammer.  Within minutes, he had demolished a sizable portion of the street.  “From now on,” he said as he handed the operator the jackhammer, “do your job with the equipment we provide!”

    In similar fashion, when we blame unbelief and disobedience to God on our human weakness, we actually reveal a deeper problem.

     “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

     Our Lord never intended that we live according to our human ways and means.  We rather “live through Him” (I John 4:9).  Failure to trust and obey therefore means that we have ignored the true power source of godly living.  We have disbelieved the truth of a present and enabling Christ, thereby giving the proclivities of our flesh free reign to control us.  The matter is personal, that is, we directly or tacitly accuse God of not providing that which He promises for the life of faithfulness to which He calls us.

    Our calling involves living as Christ lived, and as He now lives in us.  This involves a standard and quality of living far beyond human abilities.

    “Walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).
    “I will dwell in them and walk in them” (II Corinthians 6:16).

    We possess no innate capacity for the quality of life God commands.  He is far more aware of this than are we ourselves.  Thus, He provides Himself to all who believe, in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We are to believe in His dynamic presence and leading, along with the submission of ourselves to the life He makes possible.  We live in expectation of His motivating influence, and in expectation of enabling for the overcoming of every challenge and temptation.  We do our job, as it were, with the equipment provided.

     Problems with faith and obedience always reveal a deficit in our knowledge of God and His truth regarding the means by which we live the Christian life.  That is, we need to know the Lord better in order to trust Him better, thereby availing ourselves of “the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).  We also need to know ourselves better, recognizing the weakness of our humanity in order to more completely trust in the Christ who indwells our spirits.  Thereby, we live from strength, His strength, and thereby, He alone is glorified as we more consistently “walk, even as He walked.”
 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).
“We shall live with Him by the power of God.”
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Anticipated Lives"

(a repeat from 2010)

    What passes through the mind of a being with perfect foreknowledge as He plans according to an "eternal purpose?" (Ephesians 3:11).

     "His understanding is infinite... Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of creation" (Psalm 147:5; Acts 15:18).

     We cannot know the answer to such a question because we have no frame of reference for how our Creator thinks.  We make our plans with uncertainty about the future, and ignorance of what will happen in the next moment. We may think we are certain of things to come, and of our plans. However, we know deep within our hearts that no real certainty exists concerning tomorrow.
    Conversely, God plans with perfect certainty and assurance concerning every outcome. No event surprises Him, He never has an unexpected moment, and nothing ever catches Him off guard. As David confessed, such things "are too high for me" (Psalm 131:1).

      Again, we have no frame of reference for such a sensibility. We simply cannot think in these terms, and attempts to analyze God's mode and measure of thought quickly crash upon the rocks of our ignorance. Therefore, rather than seeking understanding of God's understanding, we do better to take great assurance from the fact of His infinite knowledge. We live anticipated lives. God has perfectly foreseen every moment of our eternal existence.  Thus, He is prepared for every contingency. The One to whom we have entrusted both time and eternity is ready for the happenings of both realms, and every destination to which we will ever arrive finds Him awaiting us with the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

    Few truths more confirm the reality that God is God, and we are not. Little wonder that Solomon commanded believers to "lean not upon thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). We lean rather upon the Understanding we cannot understand. We can trust it, however, and we can rejoice in the perfect preparation of the God who promises to be everything we will ever need Him to be.   The future so dark to us shines brightly to the Eyes that span the past, the present, and the future with perfect and infinite clarity.  Let us rest our hearts in the peace of such Truth, the peace of anticipated lives.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor?"
(Romans 11:33-34)

Friday, July 6, 2012

“Expected Ways, Unexpected Ways”

    Most of these messages are written early in the morning, long before sunrise.  It’s my favorite part of the day, when all is quiet, and a palpable sense of aloneness seems to enable a concentration of the heart and mind less possible at other times.

     I write these words, however, late in the afternoon.  A busy schedule today that began very early has only now allowed time to write.  This is fine, but if feels very different.  It seems late, as if I’m performing a task that should not even be attempted if not done at the usual time.  I suppose 14 years of doing things pretty much the same way each day ingrains habits that cause me today to feel off balance and out of rhythm.

    Life in a fallen world often throws us out of kilter, as it were.  We make our plans, and often execute them accordingly.  If we have a particular personality type, such devotion to detail makes deviation from the norm all the more challenging. 

     “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

    When the Lord directs our steps against the ways and means we devise, a great opportunity for faith presents itself.  Rather than succumb to disappointment, irritation, confusion and even  mourning, born again believers must trust that the new path before us promises better things than the one we had hoped to travel.  The challenge is great, but the opportunity transcends every difficulty.  Indeed, if the expected road ahead becomes blocked, let us look for Divinely-paved byways that ultimately escort us far more surely and surely to our destination.  Our Heavenly Father charts our course along both expected and unexpected paths.  We trust Him in both, and find ourselves guided and undergirded along every step of the way.

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

“His Faithfulness, Our Faithfulness”

   Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ rightly desire our lives to be characterized by increasing faithfulness to God.  We attain such advancement by increasing knowledge of the faithfulness of God.

    “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3).

    Nothing carries us further down the path of righteousness, or lifts us up when we have fallen, than fresh remembrance of our Lord’s abiding devotion to us.  The Lord Jesus “ever liveth to make intercession” for us in His heavenly High Priestly ministry (Hebrews 10:25).  Grace and mercy therefore flow from the throne of God, providing strength for today’s journey, and restoration when in our minds we seem “wearied and faint.”  Who is the Lord Jesus?  What has He done for us?  What is He doing?  What does He promise to do forevermore?  These are the issues of faithfulness, His faithfulness, that inspire our own devotion when we “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

    Focusing on our own faithfulness leads to despair at best, and pride at worst.  Certainly, a place exists in our understanding for attending ourselves to faithful devotion.  We rightly avail ourselves of the gifts God gives to “exercise…thyself unto godliness” (I Timothy 4:7).  All is done, however, through the motivating and empowering influence of Christ’s perfect consecration to God and to us.  The grace of His faithfulness instills Divinely-provided desire to “walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).  Our faithfulness thus proceeds from His faithfulness, or as the Apostle Paul declared of God’s dynamic means of genuine spiritual growth in Christ…

“Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
(II Corinthians 3:18)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“That! How?”

    While born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ base our lives on inviolable principles of Truth, we nevertheless understand that the Holy Spirit personally applies these principles to meet the particulars of differing people and circumstances.

     The Apostle Peter, for example, may be quickly freed from prison in accordance with the Biblical assurance, “He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked” (Acts 12:7-9; Psalm 97:10).  Conversely, the Apostle Paul may be allowed to seemingly languish in prison, but nevertheless experience such peace in God’s providence that perhaps even a great deliverance is known: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).  Indeed, we might ask, which is the greater provision, deliverance from prison, or deliverance in prison?

    That our Lord fulfills His promises is beyond question.  How He fulfills His promises is beyond understanding, encompassing ways and means as vast as the wisdom of God.  As with Paul, some difficult and binding experiences actually result from fulfilled assurances and answered prayers.  Our calling involves the faith that believes God is working, whether or not we understand His ways.  We trust His heart even when we cannot fathom His hand. 

    “As for God, His way is perfect” declared David (II Samuel 22:31).  “Perfect.”  Not good, or very good.  Not great, or very great.  Perfect.  Herein we rest our souls in times of both understanding and bewilderment.  Moreover, herein God is glorified by trusting children as they run free from prison, or as they live free in prison.  Our Lord is that wise, that present, that active, and that loving on our behalf.  Yes, herein we rest our souls.

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
(Philippians 4:12-13)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


(A repeat from last year.  I recently witnessed again the young men referenced in this essay, who continue to “run rings” around their fellow employees.)
    I recently spoke with the manager of a local grocery store we frequent. He mentioned that his district manager had been at the store recently, and questioned him about several handicapped young men working there. The district manager seemed to feel that the boys could be a liability. I loved the manager's response: "Are you kidding?  They're the best workers I have, and run rings around everybody here!"

    God's economy and our own are often quite different.

     "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Corinthians 1:27:30).

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ increasingly discover that supposed earthly "handicaps" are actually advantages regarding things that really matter. Weaknesses are the vessels of strength.  Losses are gains. Trials are prelude to triumph. Problems are opportunities.  Pain, in its myriad of forms, is our friend.  Moreover, tears lead to our sensing the comforting touch of the hand of God upon our troubled faces. Indeed, as we trust and submit unto Him in our difficulties, the Lord Jesus is known in ways we could never otherwise experience.

   Human beings do not naturally think well regarding things that matter. The world, the devil and the flesh skew our perceptions, causing us to maximize the minimum, emphasis the inconsequential, and exalt the unimportant.  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ begins the renewing of our minds whereby we increasingly learn to rightly prioritize our perceptions, based on the Bible's evaluation of the things that matter.  Who would have thought that a baby born in a feeding trough would become the Lord sitting upon the throne of Heaven at the right hand of God?  Certainly, no uninformed observer who witnessed the birth of the Lord Jesus would have suspected that God manifest in the flesh lay in such meager circumstances. Nevertheless, the Baby would live, die and rise again to eternally rule as the God who is man and the man who is God.

     Such sublime wonder should tell us that "My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8). They should tell us also that like those young men at the store, our "handicaps" are actually opportunities, and concerning the things that most matter, will "run rings" around the supposed strengths of our lives.

"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, July 2, 2012

“We” Part 3

    The present and eternal presence of God, so freely given to us through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, required of Him a price beyond any measure we will ever know.
   “Now o Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
   “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).
     “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

    Only one perfect relationship has ever existed in either time or eternity, namely, the bond between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit we refer to as the Trinity.  From everlasting, the Father loved the Son, the Son responded in love, and the Holy Spirit enjoyed and returned the mutual love of Both.  The Apostle Paul referred to the love of God as “the bond of perfectness,” a completeness of devotion for which we presently have no frame of reference (Colossians 3:14). 

    On the cross of Calvary, this bond was broken as the Lamb of God was “smitten” and “forsaken” by the Father who so loves Him (Isaiah 53:4).  “The Father is with Me” declared the Lord Jesus just before the cross, referencing a reality that was true in both time and “before the world was.”  Soon thereafter, however, the most anguished cry of history would resound in darkness, pain and the judgment of God’s wrath against sin.  “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!”  The bond was broken, the Son abandoned, and the Father and the Holy Spirit left our Savior to die alone as our sin-bearer. 

    Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent” (Psalm 22:1-2). 

    Alone.  The “We” forever known by the Lord Jesus became the “me” of an utterly forsaken sorrow of heart.  He did this in order that those who trust Him might be delivered from our lonely “me” to the blessedness of living relationship with God, of “we.”  Yes, to the degree the Lord Jesus was alone and forsaken on the cross, God’s trusting children will be forever accepted and united to Him.  He is with us always because a terrible, inexplicable breach took place in the heart of God.  Scripture does not attempt to explain the agony of such a horror in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.   We can simply know that it took place, allowing our hearts to be moved all the more because we so greatly benefit from that which we cannot understand.

     Again, to the degree the Lord Jesus was alone and forsaken on the cross, we who believe will forever live with our God.   Him we will forever be a “we.” 

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
(Hebrews 13:5)