Friday, November 30, 2012

“The Atheist’s Bluster” 

(Thanks to Hugh for the inspiration.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

“The Seemeth Right”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Reporting For Duty!"

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"With Joyfulness and Gladness”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

“The Love of This Moment”

    In principle, the purpose of existence almost seems simple.

    “Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

    In practice, no greater challenge confronts us than God’s call involving unselfish devotion to Him and to people.  Our bent toward selfishness, passed down through the ages from Adam, motivates us to the pleasing, promotion, and protection of ourselves.  We naturally flow with the current of “All seek their own” rather than setting sail in the river of Divine love, which “seeketh not her own” (Philippians 2:21; I Corinthians 13:5).

     One Man made the voyage of unselfish devotion to God and others. 

     “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 28:20). 

     The Spirit of this same glorious One fills and overfills our hearts when we believe (Romans 5:5).  Through the Lord Jesus Christ, born again believers possess the capacity to obey the two great commands of both Old Testament and New.  We can love God and we can love others.  A challenge too great to fulfill becomes an adventure too thrilling to miss.  “To live is Christ” declared the Apostle Paul, meaning to live is to love (Philippians 1:21).

    Certainly, the challenge remains because we live in a fallen world wherein a fallen devil and fallen flesh (including our own) still press us to the black hole of self-centered narcissism.  We’d all admit that too often we have succumbed to the temptation.  However, the events of the past do not nullify the promise of the present.  I may not have loved God and others a minute ago, but the redeeming power of Christ’s blood and Spirit mean that I can love God and others in this moment.  And I must, if life to be truly lived because, again, to live is Christ (a.k.a. - to live is to love God and others).

    The love of this moment relies on the faithfulness of God and our faith in His faithfulness.  Is He who He declares Himself to be?  Is He as present with us and within us as Scripture promises?  Is He working in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” that is, His good pleasure of love?  Is the love of God truly “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us?”  We know the answer to these questions.  All that awaits is the determination to believe with our hearts that the love of God for us has become the love of God in us, and the love of God awaiting to lead, motivate, and enable us.  To live is to love.  To live is Christ.  In this moment.

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
(I John 4:9)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

“The Last Full Measure”

(In Tribute to Deputy Scott Ward,
Baldwin County (AL) Sheriff’s Department)

    The headlines in today’s local paper juxtaposed the deaths of two men.

    One was a famous actor whose passing will be known by millions, and perhaps even mourned.  I know nothing about the man, and cannot comment on his life and character.

     The other man, Deputy Scott Ward of our local Sheriff’s Department, gave his life yesterday in the line of duty.  Far fewer people will hear about Deputy Ward’s sacrifice, or the service he provided for 15 years in local law enforcement (as well as his deployment last year to Afghanistan, where he served with the United States Coast Guard).

    In this world, those who do the most of substance and virtue invariably receive the least reward and accolade.  The aforementioned actor was likely a millionaire many times over, and his image and persona were loved by multitudes who, like me, knew nothing at all about him in any sense that truly matters.  Conversely, Deputy Ward was underpaid, underappreciated, and faithfully did his job day by day until he gave the last full measure of devotion. Those who knew him testify to how well he performed his job, and the genuine concern he held for the public he worked to protect.

    Honestly, I could care less about remembering the thespian who passed away yesterday.  But I want to remember Scott Ward.  I want to think with frequent gratitude about men and women like him, including my son, whose voluntary and sworn duty involves daily putting their life on the line so that average citizens like me can live in safety.  Yes, I want to remember Scott Ward, and I want decent people around the world to know who he was and what he did.  So I write to you, friends, in full confidence that you will join me in the remembrance of a man whose life and death provided a gift for which we can never fully give thanks.  I know also that you will join me in praying for the wife, family and friends he leaves behind.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Friday, November 23, 2012

“As Children Of Light” 

(Friends:  No association between politicians and rodents is intended by the following.  Glen).

    Having just been through a political campaign season in which truth matters little, if at all, it is easy to sense that we live in a pervasive fog of unreality. 

     We do.  “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil… the whole world lieth in wickedness” (John 3:19; I John 5:19).  By nature, human beings prefer unreality because it enables us to avoid the hard truth about ourselves, our lives, and most importantly, our Creator. Left to ourselves, we exist as a blind and condemned race of beings that scurries from truth faster than rodents flee from bright light.

     “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:9-10).

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not exempted from the fleshly tendency to hide in the shadows of darkness. The Apostle Paul commands that we “walk as children of light” because we can still live in contradiction to the truth that “now are ye light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Indeed, a proper and essential prayer we might frequently offer involves the request for our Lord to call us into the light, and to mercifully extricate us with a bit of Fatherly force if we continue to hide in the trees.  “Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant:save me for Thy mercies' sake!” (Psalm 31:16).

     We can do little about the headlong flight of politicians and rodents from truth and light.  We can do much about ourselves, however.  We can avail ourselves of God’s light as it shines forth in His Word.  We can pray the aforementioned prayers for His Spirit’s illumination.  We can seek the communion of fellow believers who often serve as the lamp of Christ’s light to our needy eyes.  And we can acknowledge our fleshly tendency to hide rather than join the Psalmist in his wise hope and affirmation…

 “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”(Psalm 18:28)


Thursday, November 22, 2012

“Problem Child”

Thanksgiving Day 2012

   As I walked on a cool, sunny, beautiful Thanksgiving morning, a particular thought of gratitude came to mind (and properly stayed for awhile).

   “But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

   As the Lord’s ongoing problem child, “longsuffering” seems an apt term for the challenge I am to Him.  How often He must exercise patience with me, forgiving me and repeating lessons that should have been well-learned long ago.  Our Lord has indeed suffered long with me, and on this day devoted to expressing gratitude, His patience is at or near the top of my list.

    God’s measure of patience seems to be in inverse proportion to our own.  We have no frame of reference for the merciful compassion that fills His heart.  Certainly, He condones no sin or waywardness on our part, but He does understand the challenges we face in faithful and godly living. Thus, our Heavenly Father suffers longer toward us than we can imagine ourselves exhibiting toward others.  This we do well to remember because if we apply our human frame of reference to our perception of the Divine version, we limit experience of the merciful longsuffering that redeems us from our deepest pit.

   On this Thanksgiving Day, I think of mercy, of grace, and of a Father who has suffered long, so very, very long with me.  And I give thanks.

“His merciful kindness is great toward us!”

(Psalm 117:2)  

    Now thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.

(II Corinthians 9:15)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Good To Me”

As the days go by, as weeks become months,
and months, years, and years, a lifetime,
the thought comes over and over,
and time after time…
“Lord, You have been good to me.”

From a father’s heart, from the Father’s heart,
the gifts come without ceasing, ever increasing,
bringing the wonder again and again,
rich blessing upon blessing upon blessing…
“Lord, You have been good to me.”

Never deserved, always His gracing,
Filling the days with glory amazing.
How am I not
more trusting and thanking and praising?
“Lord, You have been good to me.”

Eternity beckons, our Father above
promises continued abundance of love.
And so now and ever,
I know I can never, never say it enough…
“Lord, You have been good to me,
You have been so very good to me!”

“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”
(Psalm 33:5)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“I Pray For Them”

     Just before His return to Heaven by way of the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him through the ages.

    “I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.I pray for them… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; (John 17:8-9; 20).

    The Savior’s supplication on our behalf continued after His heavenly homecoming.

    “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

    Recalling also our Lord’s words to His Father, “Thou hearest Me always,” born again believers possess a security as certain as the prayers prayed by the Lord Jesus, and the answers to those prayers, as bestowed by His Father (John 11:42).

    It is a wonderful thing when a fellow believer tells us, “I am praying for you.” It is an even more wonderful thing when the Word of God tells us that the Lord Jesus is praying for us.  He did so before ever we were conceived, and in this moment remember that He “ever liveth to make intercession.”  Thus, we can be sure He presently beseeches our Father to keep us, to provide for us, and to weave all things together for our good.  We can also be sure that the Father gladly responds to the Son whom He “hearest always.”

    No greater security can be known whereby our hearts rest in peace and assurance.  Our Savior prayed for us.  Our Father answered.  Our Savior prays for us.  Our Father answers.  Our Savior will always pray for us.  Our Father will always answer. Moreover, the Holy Spirit proceeds from prayers prayed to effect prayers answered in precise accordance with the glory of the Lord Jesus and our best interest.  Again, there is no greater security, rest, peace, and assurance for our needy hearts.  May the glorious gift of love – “I pray for them” – grace our hearts in this, yet another moment when the Father hears the voice of His Son breathing your name, my name, and the names of all who trust Him.

“I pray for them.”(John 17:9)

"Now thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."

(II Corinthians 9:15)

Monday, November 19, 2012


     Only one human being has ever descended into the depths of complete and utter aloneness.

     "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

     Even the most unbelieving and godless among us, in their most unbelieving and godless moments, nevertheless "live and move and have their being" in God (Acts17:28). He is “not far from every one of us” declared the apostle Paul to the unbelieving Athenians Acts17:25-28).

    Thus, we live in a proximity to God - whether desired or not, that means we can never be abjectly alone.  On the cross of Calvary, however, the soul of the Lord Jesus entered into a dark place of forsakenness unknown by all others.  The wrath of God against sin required that the Bearer of our iniquities experience the horror of being abandoned by the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Our Savior had to die alone in order to make full atonement for our sins.  This He did in a sacrifice of far greater substance and measure than we will ever know. Indeed, no one ever knew lonely like the Lord Jesus knew lonely.  Moreover, He experienced such loss against the backdrop of a perfect relationship with His Father before the incarnation, and the closest possible God to man bond known during His earthly life.

    Perhaps more than any other discomfort, the Lord Jesus knows now to apply balm to the lonesome heart.  He’s been there, and He came forth from His sorrow “anointed with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Hebrews1:9).  As the Psalmist prophesied, God the Father raised His Son in resurrection and joyful reunion:

    “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm16:11).      This we must believe about our wondrous Redeemer, first for loving and worshipful appreciation, and then for the availing of ourselves to His marvelous ability to comfort us in times of loneliness.  Again, no one ever knew lonely like the Lord Jesus knew lonely. And no one can be the true Companion of our hearts like the One once abandoned so that we will never, ever be alone.

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

“Touched With the Feeling”

     The Bible depicts God as an emotional being.  “We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews4:15).  As an infinite being, God is in fact the most emotional person who exists.  Our own emotions proceed from the reality of feeling in the God who originally created us in His image.

     The Bible teaches that God rejoices.  He also grieves.  He can be pleased, and He can be disappointed.  God feels affection, and hatred exists in His emotional sensibilities.  Most importantly, He experiences the feelings of love more passionately than any ardor or devotion the most enraptured human heart has ever imagined (Nehemiah 8:10; Genesis 6:6; Psalm 51:19; Matthew 23:37; Ephesians5:1; Proverbs 6:16; Ephesians 3:19). 

     Wonderfully, and unlike ourselves, God’s emotions exist in perfect temper and harmony with His character, nature and way. Never do His feelings cause Him to act in discord with who He is, or with His eternal purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sentimentality will never cause our Heavenly Father to violate the sanctity of His being, the glory of His Son, or the legitimate and best interests of His creation.  “Thy testimonies that Thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful” (Psalm 119:138).

     Nothing about God more fills my heart with wonder than this, the Lord who feels.  Our Heavenly Father is emotionally involved with a creation whose realities prompt feeling of every variety and measure.  Indeed, I often think of the pain God has known deeply within His heart, pain more keenly felt than any heartache or heartbreak I have ever known.  I think of the times when I have grieved Him, and I grieve.  However, I also rejoice in the knowledge that the grace of the Lord Jesus makes possible our bringing pleasure to the heart of God by thoughts, attitudes, words, prayers, and actions that flow from His love revealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    I know you join me in desiring to live in such a manner that God’s heart is pleased.  It is a heart that has known much sorrow, and a heart worthy only of joy and blessing.  If we have believed, the Spirit of the Son who most pleases God dwells within us. Through Christ, we can think, speak, act and relate in a manner that elicits pleasure in our Father’s heart.  Let us avail ourselves of the grace that makes such blessedness possible.  Indeed, may the Lord who was touched with the feeling of our infirmities be touched with the feeling of joy by children in whom the faith and faithfulness of His beloved Son shines forth in God-pleasing love and devotion.

“The Lord taketh pleasure in His people.”(Psalm 149:4)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cheerful Giver

    I agree with a quote I recently encountered, namely, that "McIntosh apples are the quintessential essence of autumn."

     Those of you who have been with us a while know that I am a devoted admirer of these delicate, fragrant, and delicious fruits.  Living in the Deep South, I have never personally seen a McIntosh tree, nor have I smelled the fragrance of those orchards that must elicit thoughts of Eden.  I have eaten many of the apples, of course, although their delicate texture means that we rarely get really good specimens of the fruit by the time they reach Alabama.

      It therefore pleased me greatly to discover a grocery store in town that sells a particularly fragrant, tasty, and unbruised McIntosh apple.  I was so pleased, in fact, that I did some research and discovered the company that packs and distributes the apples in Massachusetts is known for its quality produce.  The grocery store where I made the purchase also prides itself on selling only the very best vegetables and fruits.  This means I have a supply of really good McIntosh apples in my refrigerator at present, a couple of which I will enjoy today, Lord willing.

    I think that He must be very willing that I enjoy the apples.  Indeed, I view them as a personal gift from the One who “loveth a cheerful giver” because He is Himself the original Cheerful Giver (and the true source of all such beneficence).  Certainly, the Bible confirms this goodness of God’s blessed heart:

     “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

      McIntosh apples may not be a “perfect gift.”  They are, however, a very “good gift.”  More importantly, they proceed from an infinitely good Heart that loves to “give good gifts to them that ask Him” (Matthew 7:11).  We must believe this about our Lord.  We must have sure and growing conviction in our hearts that He loves to meet our needs far more than we love to have them met.  Moreover, He loves to fulfill our desires when they accord with the glory of the Lord Jesus, and with our best interests.  Yes, this we must believe about our Lord because it is true, and because we must serve as the heralds of His goodness, kindness and generosity.  Our own hearts will be filled by the telling as well as by the receiving.  Yes, I agree that McIntosh apples are the quintessential essence of autumn.  Even more, however, they are the sublime expression of the One whose inexhaustible gifts are surpassed only by His inexhaustible willingness to give them.

“Thou openest Thine hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing.”
(Psalm 145:16)
“My mouth shall speak praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever!”
(Psalm 145:21)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


   In yesterday’s message, we referenced the declaration of angels regarding the pervasive presence and influence of God in His creation.

    “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).

     Doubtless, angels see the greatness and goodness of the Lord with far clearer vision than do the eyes of humanity.  Even the most godly among us “see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12).   “Awake to righteousness” commanded the Apostle Paul, a mandate that calls us to recognize both fact of God’s dynamic presence, and our tendency to sleep through the glorious display (I Corinthians 15:34).  Thus, we do well to frequently remind each other that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). 

     Our calling involves joining Moses in “seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).  This we do by faith, that is, we believe in the truth of a universe that teems with the living God.  Then we choose to expect our Heavenly Father’s working to open our eyes for the beholding of glories He prepares just for us.  Finally, we acknowledge His illuminations with thanksgiving expressed to Him, and with testimonies to others, as the Holy Spirit gives opportunity.  The fact of God’s glory becomes the expression of His glorification through us, and life becomes the wonder He means it to be.  “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

    We are as fish that swim in the ocean that is God.  We miss much of the blessedness.  But we do not have to miss all.  Faith, expectation, appreciation, and the determination to share our discoveries with others prepares our hearts to “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).  Our Father desires such a life for us, and He works incessantly to make it possible and actual.  Let us wake up, and join the Psalmist in his joyful request and expectation…

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
(Psalm 27:4)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

His Beauty, Our Senses

        God could have created a universe that bears no appeal to our senses.  He could have made the rose to emit no sweet fragrance.  He could have formed our bodies without the nerve endings that feel refreshing cool winds in our faces.  He could have constituted food and drink without flavor, leaving the hot chocolate I enjoy as I write this with no appeal. He could have omitted sound from our experience, meaning no music, no lonesome train whistles heard in the distance, and no sweet voice of the child to grace our days.  He could have determined a heaven and earth of blacks, whites and grays wherein no hues exist to thrill us with scenes of wonder.

      God could also have created fragrance, texture, flavor, sound and sight, but have formed us without the senses to experience and enjoy them.  God could have done this, and all the aforementioned possibilities.

     But He didn’t.  Instead, our Creator made a universe of indescribable beauty and wonder, and He then placed in human beings the capacity for sensory experience of His sublime creativity.

     “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:17).

       Beauty made beauty, that is, the good and loving heart of God formed a gallery called creation, and then He lavishly dispersed His art throughout the universe in a myriad of forms that call to our senses, “God… giveth us richly all things to enjoy!” (I Timothy 6:17).  Indeed, no asceticism exists in Biblical Christianity, nor does our Heavenly Father command an existence wherein we subdue our senses in a misguided attempt to obtain holiness by fleshly abnegation of gifts given to be enjoyed.  “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2:20-21).

     We must proclaim the Artist!  We must enjoy His art, and encourage others to open eyes, ears and hearts to the wonder, the splendor, the glory of a life lived in relationship with the Maker of beauty, and the Maker of our capacities to experience it.  Certainly, we do so in conformity with the Scriptural parameters that differentiate God’s beauty from Satan’s deceptive counterfeits.  We do not, however, allow the possibility of such deception to keep us from expecting experiences given by the Holy Spirit that fill and thrill our senses with godly wonder. The gallery is open.  The Artist is present in His art. He beckons us to so behold that His beauty is upon us. May we not miss this, the opportunity of a lifetime in which God determines to fill and thrill our senses with His glory, with His wonder, and with Himself.

“The whole earth is full of His glory!”(Isaiah 6:3)


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Best of Things, the Worst of Things

    In the mystery of God’s eternal purposes, the very worst thing that ever happened is also the very best thing that ever happened.

     “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23).

     Did the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ occur as the determination of God?  Or was it the sad expression of the wickedness of man?  The answer is yes to both questions.  Our Savior’s suffering revealed the truth of both Divine righteousness and human sin.  Apart from Calvary, no possibility of salvation exists for humanity – “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  However, Calvary also constitutes the greatest evil and crime ever committed, namely, the murder of the Creator by the “wicked hands” of the created.  Thus, the best thing, our hope of eternal salvation, exists concurrently with the worst thing, the extent of evil sinfulness.

    Apply this truth to everything in life.  If God can use the worst thing that ever happened to make available the best thing that will ever happen, He can surely fulfill the great promise of Romans 8:28:

     “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

     All calamities pale in comparison to the cross of our Lord Jesus.  Indeed, if God can constitute this worst thing as the best thing, He can certainly weave all other losses, sorrows, and pains into His “together for good” assurance.  We may not understand how He can possibly do so, but it is not necessary that we understand.  We need only believe that He can do so.  We trust Him in remembrance of Calvary’s blessed light shining forth from the horror of its darkness.  In God’s purposes, the best thing and the worst thing are one and the same.  Thus, the believer can peer into every black night in the confidence that somehow, some way our Heavenly Father’s glory exists and illuminates…

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

“Two Cookies”

     I’m a two-cookie man. By this, I simply mean that somewhere in my psyche, I strongly believe that if one cookie tastes good, two will more than double the pleasure (especially if they’re chocolate chip). Furthermore, I normally act on my conviction.

    I nevertheless also believe in a greater truth that seems contradictory to my two cookie perspective.  That is, if I have two cookies, but have the opportunity to share one with someone else, the one cookie left will be far more pleasing than if I had eaten both.  This, of course, does not begin anywhere in my psyche, but rather in the heart and mind of God.

     “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts20:35).

    When given the opportunity for self-sacrificial acts, whatever the nature, our natural inclination fosters hesitation and resistance. “Two cookies are best!” screams our flesh.  “You’re hungry, and the pleasure will last longer if you eat both!” 

    The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, however, whisper by the still, small voice of God that the fulfillment of our heart lies in the blessedness of blessing others.  Moreover, our Lord acts supernaturally within us when we “walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).  One cookie thus becomes far more satisfying as God enhances, as it were, both its flavor and sustenance as the joy of self-sacrifice accompanies our partaking.

    The Lord would apply this principle to everything in our lives.  Love, God’s love, known and expressed in us, provides a filled and fulfilled heart.  Whenever the choice lies before us to please our flesh, or to bless others, the way of joy beckons us along its path of giving.  Two cookies?  If I’m by myself, fine.  But if you’re with me, I’ll have one and you have the other.   Unless of course, you’re on a diet, and then…

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”(Luke 6:38)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

“Who Won?”

The Roman emperor Nero killed the body of the Apostle Paul, whose spirit immediately flew into the direct presence of his beloved Lord Jesus Christ.  “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).

    Nero, along with the once-mighty Roman Empire, add only dusty and fading footnotes to the pages of history.  Conversely, Paul, or rather, Paul’s Christ, marches along present pathways through the Apostle’s inspired Scriptural writings.  Paul remains as pertinent today as he was 2,000 years ago, while Nero’s mark on history becomes more negligible with every passing year.

    Who won their personal battle, Paul or Nero?  The answer is obvious.  The latter ended the earthly life of the former, but he had no effect on the heavenly Life of either Paul himself, or his Gospel.  God’s apostle lives on forevermore, and in this day, millions will read his words for the sublime purpose of drawing nigh unto their Divine Author.  Nero’s sword gained a fleeting victory in the moment; the sword of Paul, or rather, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” proclaims the victory of the ages (Ephesians 6:17).  Yes, Paul won.  Through Christ, in Christ, and by Christ, Paul won.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.

Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
(Percy Shelley, 1792-1822)

“The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
(Psalm 112:6)
“The lamp of the wicked shall be put out.”
(Proverbs 13:9)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

“The Light Shineth In Darkness.”

     Sometimes darkness seems to enshroud us so completely that all hope appears to be lost. Evil apparently triumphs, our losses feel insurmountable, and the future portends of dread and despair.
     Such a time happened 2,000 years ago, when the children of God witnessed the torture and execution of the One in whom they had placed all faith and hope. The Lord Jesus Christ lay dead in a lonely tomb, sealed by a stone, and guarded by strong soldiers. The night had descended, wickedness had triumphed, and the Prince of life who had saved others seemingly could not save Himself.

    We who live on the other side of the sad story know better, don't we?

    “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

    The Lord Jesus could have summoned twelve legions of angels who would have miraculously delivered Him from the political and religious leaders who decreed His execution.  Instead, He submitted Himself to their crime in order to perform the greater miracle of resurrection.  Our eternal salvation ensued, and the triumph of Christ over death rings through the ages until this hour, and this very moment.

    The stone was rolled away. Soldiers were dispatched. The sadness of the grave gave way to the supply of grace made possible by death and resurrection. The crime of devilish and human agencies became God's wondrous means of redeeming us from our own wickedness and unbelief. The Lord Jesus is risen, a glorious truth that would not exist had He not first suffered death.

    In those times when the night descends and all hope seems to fly away, let us remember the very basis of our faith.  "The light shineth in darkness" declared the apostle John, who witnessed firsthand the thickest shroud ever to envelope the world (John 1:5).  The Prince of life died.  He did not, however, remain dead. Nor will our dark nights endure as we remember and affirm by faith the truth that forms and informs our faith: the tomb is empty. The heavenly throne is occupied. And Jesus Christ is Lord.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dear Orange Moon Friends

Dear Friends, 

As a companion to today's message you might be interested in our video, "To the Fallen."

Thanks, Glen. 

Orange Moon Cafe - To The Fallen

“The Highest Cost”

(Election Day, 2012)

     As I waited in line to vote this morning, thoughts came to mind that overwhelmed me with emotion.

     I remembered those who had given “the last full measure of devotion” in order to provide and protect the rights of Americans to choose our leaders.  So many have breathed their last breaths for the express purpose of our having the privilege of breathing the rare air of freedom.

     I considered those who sacrificed limbs, eyesight, hearing, and a pain-free lifetime for the liberty we so easily take for granted. Indeed, let us never forget the many Americans who will suffer pain and loss every day for the rest of their lives – and in this very moment - to ensure our freedom.

     I thought of battlefields, airspace, and oceans filled with explosives, shrapnel, fire and bullets, and the Americans who endured such horror to make possible the privilege we exercise today.  I thought of the statement my son, Staff Sgt. Noah Davis, USMC, made to me recently concerning his deployment in Iraq: “Every day I was there, I thought I was going to die.”

     I pondered the training required to enable and equip men and women to serve in the Armed Forces. Sacrifices involving body, mind, and heart make possible the duties fulfilled by those who stand guard to defend the sanctity of the United States.

    I considered the fact that, whether by draft or voluntary enlistment, so many Americans in history have experienced that moment when they swear to defend the Constitution of the United States with their very lives.  Indeed, when we visited Washington D.C. many years ago, the most important thing in Frances’s mind involved a visit to Constitution Hall: “I want to see the Document that my son has sworn to defend at any cost.”

     I remembered the times when Noah has left for deployments into harm’s way, and I thought of how much it affected him to leave family, friend, and way of life.  I thought also of how much it affected us, and how many Americans have experienced that keen pain of separation from loved ones whom they may never see again because of their devotion.

    I grieved when thinking of fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends receiving the news that their loved ones would not be returning home to them.  Indeed, in the last decade, more than 4,000 Americans have died serving our country, and the interests of others in other lands.  Many more than that grieve at the loss, and I try to remember daily to pray for those whose departed loved ones made it possible for us to freely vote today.

    I thought of lost time, opportunity, career, family, and a life lived amid the ordinary blessings and challenges known by most people in our nation.  How easily we average citizens forget the sacrifices of those who vouchsafe the normalcy of our everyday lives.  “But you must remember, my fellow citizens” said President Andrew Jackson in 1837, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that you must pay that price in order to secure the blessing.”  Those who serve in our Armed Forces understand this truth, and apply themselves to it far more than does the average citizen.  For this, we owe them a profound debt of gratitude.  And, of remembrance.

     Finally, and most importantly, I remembered the source of all genuinely self-sacrificial devotion.  I remembered the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave all and suffered more than any other to grant the truest liberty to us, the liberty of the heart.  Our Savior made possible our freely determined faith to receive His gift of eternal life, and then to choose the submission to Him that liberates our spirits unto relationship with the living God.  America’s ideals of freedom reflect this truth in principle, and those who have served, and who presently serve in our military, reveal in practice the cost of such Blood-stained liberty.

      These things came to mind and heart as I waited to vote today.  I hope they will stay with me always, and I hope to live as an American who understands that freedom comes to us and remains with us not freely, but at the highest cost imaginable to both God and man.

“Greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13)

“God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

(Romans 5:8)


Monday, November 5, 2012

“The Risen Son and the Rising Sun”

     The risen Son ensures the rising of the sun upon whatever tomorrow brings to born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

     “He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

     Having overcome our worst enemy by trampling death under His nail-scarred feet, the Lord Jesus Christ promises to lead, enable, and keep us in whatever life brings our way. 

     In blessing, He will enhance our joy by leading us along the path of thanksgiving to the throne of grace.  “By Himtherefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). 
     In trouble, He assures our hearts of God’s purpose and preservation: “In the world, ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

    In the everyday and mundane, He will abide with us in all: “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). His risen and overcoming life enhances every blessing, transcends every difficulty, and infuses every earthly moment with the presence of heavenly reality.       Our experience of such glory may wax and wane. Nothing, however, changes the fact of our Lord’s vibrant life as our grace-given portion in every moment.  The risen Christ dwells with us.  He dwells within us.  Moreover, “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts17:28).  This is truth, regardless of the ebb and flow of our awareness, remembrance, application, and apprehension.  Thus, the Apostle Paul commands that we “awake to righteousness” (I Corinthians 15:34). Indeed, let us remember the empty tomb and the occupied throne above. The Son is risen, and in such glorious light, the sun will rise on our everytomorrow regardless of what it may bring.

“The true light now shineth.”(I John 2:8)


Friday, November 2, 2012

“Faithful and True”

      I once heard a believer say he wanted to be remembered as “faithful to the end.”

     Certainly, all born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ aspire to this Biblical and noble aspiration.  However, another Christian confessed what I believe to be a far greater and more Biblical hope when asked how he desired to be remembered.  “I want to be known as one who had a merciful, gracious and faithful Lord.”

     You see the difference.  While well meaning, the former aspiration directs attention to the Christian rather than to his Christ.  The latter recalls the beautiful image portrayed by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation:

    I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11).

     Our own faithfulness begins and continues with the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus.  We respond to His working in us, of course, applying ourselves to the power of His indwelling presence.  Never, however, does the God-aware and self-aware believer conclude that his own trustworthiness originates in himself.  “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” exulted the Apostle Paul, who also confessed, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (I Corinthians 10:31; 15:10). 

Faithful and True

There is a Heart, so faithful and true.
It bears a scar, for me and for you.
And we can know for a lifetime through,
it’s faithful and true, faithful and true,
faithful and true, faithful and true.

There is a grace that makes all things new,
born in that valley our Lord passed through.
Where He was smitten for me and for you,
so faithful and true, faithful and true,
faithful and true, faithful and true.

Forever draws nigh, we’ll see His face soon,
Shining in glory, so lovely the view.
And the glad anthem of our hearts will ensue,
so faithful and true, faithful and true,
faithful and true, faithful and true.


“Great is Thy faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:23)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

“Below the Surface”

  “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John7:24).

     Because our vision and understanding extend only to the surface of things, God calls us to the “righteous judgment” that recognizes both our limitation, and His infinite understanding.

     “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).

      Certainly, we use our understanding with great determination and application.  We do not, however, lean upon it as if our grasp of facts provides the be all and end all of truth and reality.   Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ possess the gracious advantage of another and greater Mind that sees above, on, and below the surface of everything in our lives.  “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).  Through prayer, the Scriptures, our fellow believers, and trusting in the Lord with “all thy heart,” we avail ourselves of the only One who possesses truly righteous judgment. 

     The crystal surface of a still pond might cause us to think we have encountered merely a mirror that beautifully reflects the light of sun, moon, and stars.  In truth, however, a teeming world of life exists under the mirror’s surface.   The pond speaks to everything in our lives, as we actually see very little of things as they truly and completely are.  Let us be thankful that we know the One to whose eyes all things are “naked and opened” (Hebrews 4:13).  He will gladly direct our paths as we affirm His perfect vision and admit our limited perspective.  Or, as the Psalmist exulted of a life lived in the light of God…

“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

(Proverbs 4:18)