Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Frances has tendonitis in her right arm, an ailment commonly referred to as “tennis elbow” (even though, as she says, “I don’t play tennis!). It is very painful, and a visit to the orthopedic doctor yesterday revealed to her a treatment for the problem that works in most cases. “Time,” said the doctor, “regardless of what you do or don’t do, you will likely get better in time.” One of our dearest friends, a physical therapist, has told us the same about a number of aches and pains, which reminds me of the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”
Both the doctor and our P.T. friend would tell us that they do not literally credit the mere passage of moments as a healing factor. They rather mean that the restorative functions of our physical bodies, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” often bring repair and relief when given enough time (Psalm 139:14). God built into us this feature necessary for our survival, but in our present sin-damaged existence, the healing properties of our bodies are far from perfect. Time most surely does not heal all wounds. It just heals some of them.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:7-9).
We do not know for certain the nature of the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We do know that it did what thorns always do. It hurt. More importantly, however, the lingering wound became an open portal for the entrance of God’s grace. Indeed, no thorn, no grace as particularly shaped and formed by Paul’s experience of pain. Three seasons of prayer led to a harvest not of healing, but of knowing God and His freely given favor in Christ that far surpassed the mere removal of a thorn. Lingering pain, be it physical or emotional, offers us such grace, namely, the experience of our Heavenly Father’s enabling heart and presence. “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
It is not inevitable that the wounds of thorns will become open windows for the entrance of grace. We must trust our Lord, submitting ourselves to His will when and as we move in such as way that our personal thorn yet again causes pain. Against all appearance, mental perplexity, and emotional inclination, we must give thanks rather than complain. We must praise rather than succumb to despair. And we must choose to expect that God will faithfully fulfill His role as “the strength of m heart, and my portion forever.” The life of faith is not for the passive, nor for those who forget the constant refrain of both Old Testament and New, namely, that the heart of God could never be fully known if His hand immediately and completely healed every wound. As Job declared, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee” (Job 42:5).
When time and the healing process do not heal a wound, God offers to us an even greater deliverance. He offers us Himself. “I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). Whether we experience such sublime grace depends on whether we believe it to be available. It is, and in this moment, our Lord’s still hand promises to us the grace of His heart.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
God’s governing purpose
involves the preeminence and centrality of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).
Conversely, humanity’s governing purpose involves any and everything but the exaltation of Christ.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
When we trust in the Lord Jesus, our Heavenly Father establishes His purpose as our purpose. He initiates a work in us whereby the preeminence of Christ becomes the default position, as it were, of our newly enlivened spiritual being. We become a new and different person within, “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). The Spirit of Christ dwells within us, and works in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The Savior matters to us, and deep within our redeemed being, our Heavenly Father’s Christ-centered intention becomes the guiding purpose of our own existence. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22).
Alas, however, the default position of our flesh remains inclined toward “gone astray” and “everyone to his own way.” “The flesh lusteth against the spirit” (Galatians 5:17). God allows our imperfect faculties and members, as inherited from fallen Adam, to remain with us. Thus, we remain strongly susceptible to forgetting, ignoring, and even rejecting the centrality of the Lord Jesus. We can live as if life is about us rather than Him. In such times, we swim against the tide of our redeemed and Christ-inhabited being, experiencing the consequences of our unbelief in joylessness, lack of peace, and the sense of being untethered from the central hub of our life and being. “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop” (Psalm 102:7).
This is written as a simple reminder of God’s purpose, and our purpose. The glory and revelation of the Lord Jesus guides His intentions and doings. To the degree this same purpose guides us also will be directly proportional to our sense of rightness, peace, and joy. We will not be perfect as is our Heavenly Father, but we can seek to grow in remembrance that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). May the Lord grant much grace in keeping, as a good friend often says, “the main thing, the main thing, and the first thing, the first thing” (Thanks, Larry!). The preeminence of Christ in all things – this is God’s intention, and His gift of sublime grace to our hearts makes it ours as well.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Monday, April 15, 2013
In his dying hour, David asked his son Solomon to execute vengeance upon men who had opposed the king and his purposes (I Kings 2:1-9).
In His dying hour, the Lord Jesus Christ asked His Father to bestow mercy upon those who had nailed Him to His cross –“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:46).
This observation is not intended as criticism toward David, an imperfect but godly man declared by the Lord to be “a man after Mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). We rather intend to illustrate the contrast between the Lord Jesus and all others. Indeed, the best and brightest among the human race fall far, far short of the person our Savior was and is. If we have trusted in Him, the process of being conformed to His image proceeds as God works all things together for this holy purpose (Romans 8:28-29). Nevertheless, a long journey of spiritual and moral change awaits all of us because the summit to which we ascend reaches far beyond our best thoughts and highest imaginings. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9).
Certainly, we do well to respect and admire those Biblical figures such as David who in many ways trusted and obeyed their Lord. The same is true for those in our lives who exemplify Christ’s love and faithfulness. However, we seek maintain rapt attention and focus solely on the Lord Jesus as we remember and respond to God’s holy purpose in our lives. The perspective drives us to our knees in awed worship and wonder, and then raises us up to walk the power of our Savior to enable genuine godliness by His indwelling presence – “I will dwell in them and walk in them” (II Corinthans 6:16). In Heaven and earth, there is no one like our Savior. If we have believed, however, we are involved in a process of change into His spiritual and moral likeness, as effected by the saving grace of God that justifies, sanctifies, and will ultimately glorify us…
“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) “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as He is.” (I John 3:2)
Saturday, April 13, 2013
I am with you, just as promised, you’ll journey not alone.
My mercy has redeemed.
Oh, I have no words to tell you
I have waited for this moment, when yonder up above,
We’ll forever be together, because this path we’ve trod…
homeward,My child, homeward, My child.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
“God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
The only perfectly innocent person who ever lived nevertheless gave Himself to a cross whereupon He appeared to die as a common criminal. Exaltation by God followed, and the Lord Jesus Christ will forever reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
If we have trusted in the Lord Jesus as our Savior, a similar pathway awaits us on a daily basis. Many opportunities to humble ourselves await us along the path of righteousness, most of them involving quiet, internal challenges that no one other than ourselves ever see. Words that we choose not to say, reactions we restrain by the Holy Spirit’s keeping, good deeds done in a manner that do not draw attention, acts and attitudes of retribution avoided, chosen pathways of anonymity – our Lord leads us to follow retrace His footsteps in order that the Psalmist’s prayer might be fulfilled in our lives as it was in His’: “Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory!” (Psalm 115:1).
I have often shared in these messages that for me, the most shocking truth of Scripture involves the fact that when the Lord Jesus began His ministry, His own brothers did not know not who He was (John 7:5). Our Savior lived in such a quiet and unobtrusive humility during His first thirty years that no overt display of His Divinity shone forth. Doubtless, many temptations confronted Him to reveal His true nature, as in the wilderness challenge when Satan prompted the Lord to act as the God He is (Matthew 4:1-11). The Lord Jesus overcame them all, praise His Name, and as He walks in us, He purposes to do the same. Let us therefore expect the opportunities of humility whereby the character and nature of Christ leads us to “walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6). An immediate exaltation results, namely, the Holy Spirit’s inward affirmation of peace that confirms we have chosen the path of lowliness whereupon our Savior’s footsteps still shine in the sublime glory of His humility.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”