Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Dread?  Joy!"Part 2    

 Regarding dread, or fear of the future, the challenge can involve large or small matters.      

Doubtless, we all at times envision catastrophic contingencies with a strong sense of concern. 

"What would I do if this or that happened?"  David references this in the 46th Psalm, wherein he considers what might happen if "the earth be removed, and cast into the sea" (vs. 2).  His answer?  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear" (vs. 1-2).  "Consider that the worst might happen" suggests the Psalmist.  "God will not only be present.  He will be very present with refuge and strength."    

We rightly rejoice in such assurance concerning the possibility of major calamity.  However, I grow more and more convinced that in the matter of fear, it is "the little foxes, that spoil the vines" (Song of Solomon 2:15).  Failure to decisively deal with everyday insecurities and uncertainties ultimately affect us more than the major temptations to fear, of which there are relatively few.  I'm tempted to offer a list of such possibilities, but there are so many in both number and nature that naming just a few wouldn't be helpful.  Moreover, we each experience challenges tailored by our spiritual enemies that impact our particular personality and disposition.  Perhaps as you read this, your own susceptibility to temptations of dread comes to mind.  If you're like me, the accompanying thought involves the confession, "I've too often not dealt with those temptations, but rather let a little fox gnaw at the vines of my heart and mind until the experience of Christ's peace has indeed been spoiled."   

If this is the case, we must act in order that the vines might be redeemed and repaired.  First, we approach our Heavenly Father with a heart of contrite repentance.  "Father, I have sinned in failing to trust You when challenged by this temptation to fear.  I am sorry, and I believe Your promise for forgiveness and cleansing through the redeeming blood of Christ" (I John 1:9).  We then remember God's assurance of enabling for the life of faith to which He calls us. 

"Thank You, Father, that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus dwells in me to lead and empower me to believe Your promises.  I therefore choose to trust You regarding the specific issues wherein I have been living in dread rather than faith."  Our prayer concludes with the request that the Lord will bring the Truth of His abiding and overcoming presence to our hearts and minds whenever temptations to fear assail us.  "Father, remind me continually that nothing comes my way that You have not foreseen in the determination to be everything I will need You to be.  May the Lord Jesus thereby be glorified as I walk in Your peace."   

There are some big foxes out there.  However, the countless little foxes may offer far more challenge.  We can trust our Lord regarding both contingencies, and indeed, we must trust Him.  Our lives matter too much to our particular sphere of influence for our hearts to be distracted or even paralyzed by dread.  "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).  David's "What time" means anytime, every time, and all the time we must act when foxes of whatever size tempt us to be afraid.  May our Heavenly Father search us to discover in us vines spoiled by dread, and then may He lead us to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

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

"Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you."(Isaiah 35:4.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Dread? Joy!"

      What do we do with dread? (which, in practical terms, simply means fear of the future).

     I've recently had opportunity to discover in greater measure the Lord's way in such challenge.  During our plumbing project of the last few weeks, our plumber Tony has often said to me, "Mr. Davis, I need to show you something."  Gulp!  This rarely means good news (although Tony is such a gracious, soft-spoken gentleman that his demeanor does seem to soften the blow a bit).  No, it hasn't happened yet that he's said, "Mr. Davis, I've opened up this wall, or that pipe, and discovered that everything's in mint condition!  You won't be needing anything here!"  No, it's more like the news of five minutes ago.  "Mr. Davis, this is what fifty years will do for you" (you don't need to know the details, but thankfully, this one was not an expensive issue).  So, Tony's "I need to show you something" does offer a bit of unintended temptation, along with the opportunity to learn a bit better about how to deal with the aforementioned dread.

    I've believed for a long time that every feeling or sensation of fear provides actually provides opportunity for joy.  Indeed, recall that our Lord promises to work "all things together for good" in the lives of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Thus, when trouble arrives at our doorstep, the truth of the matter is that God arrives with it (actually, before it).  "All" means all, and no pain, loss, sorrow and difficulty can begin to compare with our Lord's capacity to weave His good into everything that will ever happen in our lives. Everything.  The cross of our Lord Jesus bears witness to such blessed truth, whereupon the worst thing that ever happened became for trusting hearts the best thing that ever happened.  "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19).

    Approaching trouble will inevitably elicit in us the human emotional and even physical responses of feeling afraid.  Moreover, our minds may quickly join the battle as we ponder troubling possibilities.  However, we do not have to allow reactions of fear to become strongholds of dread.  King David helps us in this matter.  "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).  When tempted to fear, be it minor insecurities, seemingly overwhelming portents of tragedy, or all challenges in between, there is something we can do, something we must do.  We must trust.  We must depend (on the Lord).  We must remember (His truth).  And we must believe.  A reasoned, deliberate choice presents itself to our hearts, an "I will" such as David affirmed.  Regardless of emotion, physical sensation, or swirling thoughts and notions, we must determine that God's truth will be our truth.  Such faith makes possible peace in our hearts, and also joy, as confirmed by the Apostle Paul's mandate, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).  Indeed, Paul could not command us to rejoice in all if it were not possible that we do so.

    Here's the basis of such joy.  If trouble, of whatever kind, is actually God's opportunity to show Himself wise, strong, able and present on our behalf, then His determination or allowance of it actually comes with wondrous possibility.  "What will the Lord be and do for His glory and our benefit in this challenge?"  This must serve as the governing truth whereby our initial reactions of dread are overcome.  Again, the worst thing, the cross, became for us the best thing, eternal redemption.  All other challenges pale in comparison.  I think of this during our relatively minor challenge of plumbing matters, and I've learned much that I hope will abide for a lifetime wherein I recall that temptations to dread actually offer opportunities for joy.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."
(Psalm 46:1-3)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Feeling the Love"

     "Can you feel the love, Mr. Davis?"

    I had no idea what Tony our plumber meant by this strange, 8 o'clock in the morning inquiry. 

"Excuse me?" I responded.  Our plumber, who has become a friend in the last 10 days, looked at me and smiled.  

"The water company guy is in your neighborhood replacing meter boxes this morning."  I knew instantly what Tony had meantand yes indeed, I felt the love.

     Here's the story.  Our plumbing project of recent days resulted from the fact that we own a 55 year old house.  The pipehave to wear out sometime, and this was our time.  Moreover, old style concrete meter boxes also feel the wear of the years.  Ours did, and proceeded to disintegrate aTony and his assistant Brendon pulled it from the ground while installing a new main plumbing line from the street to the house.  We planned on calling the water company that day to see if they'd come out and replace the box.  There was no need, however.  Because on this day, the one day out of countless days they could have chosen, and the very day we needed new equipment, the water company -without being notified - sent their man out to provide exactly what we required.  Oh yes, I felt the love!

    I like to say it this way: sometimes God is so obvious that it seems we can reach out and touch Him.  Or, in Tony's terms, you can feel the love (which may become my new way of expressing the truth of a Lord who must necessarily remain veiled in much of this life of faith, but who must also enjoy those times when He can come forth in open display of His devotion to us).  "We walk by faith, not by sight" wrote the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 5:7).  Nevertheless, sometimes we seem to almost catch a glimpse of His wondrous form as it passes by us in loving affection and devotion (II Corinthians 5:7).  Such times are precious in this present existence, and will provide blessed memories in our heavenly days to come.  Yes, Tony, I can feel the love.

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


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"The Privilege of Love"

     Originally created in the image of God, the human race possesses potential and capacity for experience such as the Lord Himself knows.

Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

     Through Christ, God actualizethe faculties for loving relationship He formed in our original forefather Adam.  Those faculties were severely damaged when Adam and Eve sinned, but the indwelling presence and working of the Holy Spirit in believers makes possible the mental, emotional, physical and relational qualities of Divine love, as revealed in human hearts and lives.  "
I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).  No more important truth exists for us to know and embrace, namely, that the saving grace of the Lord Jesus equips and enables us to genuinely love God and people.  Indeed, the two great commandments, repeated in Old Testament and New, call us to this life such as our Lord Himself knows.  "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 12:30-31).

     Words cannot express the privilege of love.  Consider this primary feature of God's character, nature and way, wherein He has and will eternally exist.  To be created in the image of such a glorious One, and then to actively live as He lives ushers us to the brink of the most sublime mystery.  We exist to be loved, to be inhabited by love, and then to ourselves love so that we may know the joy of unselfish devotion to others experienced by our Lord.  How good He is to create us for such wonder, and then to redeem us through Christ when in Adam we embraced self-centeredness.  Yes, love is first and foremost a privilege of grace wherein our Lord calls us to eternally ancient glories now and forevermore realized in those who receive and then express the love of God as revealed in the Lord Jesus, and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us."
(Romans 5:5)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Mr. Terry Knight"

Our eldest children Marie and Noah were blessed to attend an elementary school where Mr. Terry Knight served as principal.  To this day, Mr. Knight remains one of our family's most admired figures, as he always will.  He was an educator beyond compare, and I thank the Lord that two of our offspring had the opportunity to experience this very special Christian gentleman's marvelous gift of leadership.     

I share this to illustrate a Biblical truth exemplified by a particular practice of Mr. Knight.  Before addressing this, however, I must take the opportunity to share a few things about Mr. Knight both in principle and in anecdote.  First, he was the quintessential example of the old adage of possessing "an iron fist in a velvet glove."  When you meet Mr. Knight, you're struck by the gentleness of his demeanor and voice.  He is warm, gracious, friendly as a person, and he exhibited the same as a school principal.  However, there was never any doubt as to who was in charge of Leinkauf Elementary.  The children knew, the teachers knew, and as a parent, I can assure you that those of us with children at Leinkauf knew that the buck not only stopped at Mr. Knight's desk.  It began and continued there also.  He possesses that rare quality of leadership whereby both gentleness and firmness unite to foster affection and respect in those who know him, and serve under his guidance.    

A wonderful example of this occurred when our daughter Marie graduated from Leinkauf at the completion of the fifth grade.  As we left the ceremony, Mr. Knight took us aside to share a word of advice with us. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Davis," he said with that gentleness and firmness that gets your attention, "Marie is wonderful girl, and an incredible student.  However, you're going to have to be careful with her.  She drives herself so hard that it will be important that you handle her with a lot of caution and latitude.  She'll need your guidance, but if you push her, you'll create some unnecessary problems."  To this day, this remains some of the greatest counsel we've ever received, and it proved to be true.  Marie is one of the most self-motivated people you'll ever meet, and didn't need us to remind, encourage, or challenge her to do her schoolwork and fulfill her other responsibilities.  Moreover, I suspect that Mr. Knight saw in myself and Frances those tendencies that might lead us to be somewhat overbearing (yes, I admit it!).  What insight, and what a wonderful bit of advice from a noble heart and mind.    

Now to my primary point, and the thought that originally motivated me to write this.  Frances and I often remind each other of something Mr. Knight always said to the children at the beginning of school assemblies. 

"Now children, I will expect you to be on your best behavior during this time.  Be quiet and listen to the speakers, applaud those who give it their best as they perform.  And remember, if someone stumbles and falls as they come up to the stage, don't laugh at them. Instead, encourage them in your heart."   

It's been more than 25 years now since I last heard Mr. Knight utter those words, but I still hear them echoing in my heart and mind.  What an amazing thing to suggest to young children at a formative time in their lives! (and to their parents!).  "Encourage them in your heart."  Is there any better practical expression of the attitude toward others that Christians should maintain in our hearts and minds?   Indeed, we live in a world wherein all of us sometimes stumble as we come up to the stage, as it were.  How wonderful it is when we encounter people who, rather than laugh at our misstep, instead express a supportive and gracious heart of encouragement.  We all know such ones whose disposition of sympathy and empathy helps us to get up and walk again.  When I think of this blessed truth that begins in God Himself, it is never long before I think also of Mr. Knight and his wonderful challenge from so long ago.   

I could have written this before now, and would have found much joy in doing so.  However, it means all the more now because several months ago, we ran into Mr. Knight and his wife in a local grocery store.  We exchanged email addresses, and he kindly allows us to send the Orange Moon devotionals to him.  I'm glad he'll read this, and I know that he will humbly suggest I am overstating his virtues.  I assure you that I am not, although it is true that the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of those good things that came to us through this godly and gracious man. 

So, thank You, Lord for the wonderful truth that You forevermore encourage Your trusting children in Your heart when we stumble.  And thank you, Mr. Knight, for being such a blessed expression of this loving attitude that points us to the Lord Jesus.

"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another."(I Thessalonians 5:11)

Monday, June 24, 2013


      When severely challenged, our minds begin to devise ways to deal with the issues that confront us.  In some cases, our need to respond is so immediate that we must act without hesitation.  Other matters, however, give us time to consider the proper response.  Concerning the former scenario, we rely on God's grace as revealed through prayers offered in the past for His provision.  The latter circumstance calls us to deliberately seek our Lord in accordance with His prescribed path of faith.

     "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 steps" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

     First, note that Solomon does not call us to ignore our understanding.  He rather commands that we not lean upon it, that is, we must not depend upon it.  We expect God to lead us in His wisdom and knowledge, but also with the understanding that such leading most often results from His enabling for reasoned and thoughtful consideration.  Indeed, it is a dangerous thing for believers to disengage our minds, allowing them to go blank in hope that the Lord will imprint His thoughts upon us.  This leads to deception and fanciful notions far more than to truth.  Our Heavenly Father created the wonder of our brains for their decisive use and engagement.  "Think on these things" wrote the Apostle Paul of our calling to use our minds with confidence in God's promised leadership and enabling, as opposed to depending on our own wits and supposed brilliance (Philippians 4:8).

    In the aforementioned challenges that allow for deliberation, we begin by trusting the Lord to lead us, as He promises.  We proceed to renounce trust in our ability to independently think our way out of trouble.  Upon this dual basis of faith and acknowledgement of our weakness, we then expect the Lord to lead and enable us to think in accordance with His truth and will.  Again, we use our minds.  We do not, however, lean upon them in the sense of trusting in ourselves.  We "acknowledge Him," as Solomon commanded, expecting Him to faithfully guide us through our challenge with provision, protection, and most of all, His abiding presence.

    As we often mention in these messages, the Christian life does not require brilliant thinkers (a fact for which I remain most grateful!).  It does, however, require thoughtful deliberation and an active mind.  Genuine faith involves knowing God's truth well enough to specifically apply it to the issues of life.  Sometimes "Lord, I trust You!" seems like all we have, and our Heavenly Father surely responds on such occasions.  The norm, however, involves pointed remembrance and affirmation of correctly applied Truth to the challenge we face.  This requires thought, thought on which we do not lean, but which we do exercise in order to consciously and effectually walk with God along the pathways of life.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God."
(II Corinthians 3:5).

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
(Philippians 4:8)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Every Word"

(Thanks to Jay for the inspiration and correction)
      I recently used the term "hot water heater" in a discussion with a newspaper editor friend.  Bemused, my friend responded, "What kind of heater?"  I immediately realized where he headed linguistically, and offered the lame excuse that the water in the tank is usually warm when the thermostat ignites the heating jets.  However, I eventually fell on my sword and acknowledged the proper title - "water heater."  Because, by definition, hot water does not require heating.

    "Every word of God is pure" (Proverbs 30:5).

    The same precise care and attention must be afforded the Word of God.  I was blessed early in my Christian life by teachers who held a high regard for the text of Scripture.  "What does the Bible actually say?" - my mentors challenged me to always keep this question at the forefront of all consideration.  This must serve as the inquiry of every reading and study of every word, verse, chapter, passage and book.  We must handle God's Word more carefully than we might hold a delicate piece of crystal in gingerly transport from cabinet to table.  Every word matters.  Every word is inspired exactly as God willed.  And every word must be believed, interpreted, obeyed, and applied as if we indeed believe that every word is, as Solomon proclaimed, pure. 

    The prophet Isaiah taught that the words of God fit together as "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:10).  Much time spent in the Scriptures makes possible such coordination of truths and principles.  Even more, much confidence and determination must guide our search for the living Lord Jesus Christ as He dwells on every page of of the Bible.  In truth, our Biblical journey involves the discovery of our Savior in the infinite measure and detail of His character, nature, and way.  Taking care with God's Word thus means that we diligently seek to know the Lord Jesus as He actually exists in the wondrous union of the Divine and the human.  "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life.  And they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).  God forbid that we comport ourselves in a slipshod or lazy manner as we seek to know the living Word in the written Word that reveals Him.  Such determination begins and continues with a high respect for the Bible, as revealed in our delicate handling of a treasure more infinitely valuable than the finest crystal.

"Thy Word
 is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it."
(Psalm 119:140)

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Rusty Blades"

Part 3 (?!)
      Yet another installment in the "Rusty Blades" saga! (I assure you there will be no more than 30 or 40 chapters.)

      I've been thinking the last few days about my own blade, or sword.  How keen, polished, and ready for battle is it?

ake the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).

    Of course, as a matter of general truth and principle, God's Word is forever honed and prepared to be drawn and used. However, how ready I am to wield it in accordance with my personal life and the challenges I must face and overcome in order to honor, trust, and obey the Lord?  This is the question that confronts every born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ in our calling to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12).  We must know, believe, and ready ourselves always to draw the sword, that is, to remember and affirm the truth of God's Word in the everyday realities that present themselves to us. 

     Interestingly, even as I write this, one of the those realities has just provided the opportunity and challenge to draw the sword.  The particulars are not important, but the the proper response is vital.  I must remember what God's Word declares about the blessings, challenges, and everyday mundane affairs of life.  The Lord is present.  We face nothing alone.  He promises wisdom so that we may know how to think, speak, act and relate to every contingency.  He provides for every need "according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  He protects us, allowing only those difficult things to come our way that He can fit into His eternal glory and our well being.  Indeed, we live anticipated lives wherein the living God is the truth of both fact and context regarding all things.  This we must believe as a matter of doctrinal principle, and also along the daily path of blessings, challenges, and whatever God determines or allows life to bring our way.  Drawing the sword, as it were, involves trusting, affirming, and obeying our Lord's Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Thereby, God's "two-edged" sword both accomplishes our protection and effects great damage to our spiritual enemies as the Lord Jesus is glorified and revealed by our faith (Matthew 28:20; I Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 4:19; Proverbs 21:31; Acts 17:28; Hebrews 4:12). 

     We want to keep our sword sharp, unsheathed and active.  Such spiritual action first involves knowing our blade through consistently reading and pondering the truths of Scripture.  Subsequently, we expect countless opportunities to utilize the Word we have hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).  For many years, rusty blades have been waiting in our walls for that day when they would come forth into the light as a reminder to avail ourselves of another Blade that must dwell not only in our hearts, but be drawn by our hand...

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand."
(Psalm 149:6)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Rusty Blades"

Part 2
      Discovering that former owners of our home actually used the razor blade discard slot in our medicine cabinet intrigues me.  For years I wondered if they'd done so, and seeing a host of spent blades on a stud in our walls confirmed that people of previous generations availed themselves of a convenient way to safely dispatch a potentially dangerous object.

His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and   godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (II Peter 1:3-7).

     The Christian life involves affirmation of power already given, as opposed to attaining more of our Lord's enabling.  Our feelings, thoughts and experiences may not always align with such truth.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit who indwells us exists forevermore as the ever-present power of God.  Accessing His guidance and enabling for "life and godliness" flows from "the knowledge of Him," along with our confidence in His "exceeding great and precious promises."  Thereby virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity spring forth as the fruits of grace first given, and then manifested.  "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). 

    We could have opened our walls and discovered no spent razor blades despite the convenient slot for their disposal.  In like manner, the Spirit of Christ can inhabit us as the great power of God without our experiencing His promised working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  We must avail.  We must affirm.  We must access by faith the fact of our Lord's promise to empower a life of Divinely-fostered godliness.  Indeed, consider some aspect of walking with God wherein too many failures have characterized our experience.  The problem lies not in attainment, but in apprehension, affirmation, and access.  We either don't adequately know, or we choose to disbelieve the Truth of the abundant life of Christ that indwells our redeemed spirits.  Born again believers are super-charged vehicles of godliness through Christ.  To the degree we know and believe such truth determines the consistency of our faith and faithfulness to Him.  "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30). 

    Our residential ancestors use of a convenient tool encourages and challenges me to avail myself in this day of grace already given, and power ready to enable.  Christ Himself dwells in us by His Spirit.  Moreover, He promises to walk in us by the same (II Corinthians 6:16).  Our experience of such truth awaits our confidence and confession of a far greater salvation than we often realize, and a far greater Savior.

We shall live with Him by the power of God."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Rusty Blades"

     Inside our bathroom medicine cabinet is a slot labeled "razor blades."  The opening exists as a repository for the old style flat, doubled-edged blades of days gone by.  When finished with the blade, you removed it from the razor and slipped it through the opening.  From there it fell down into the wall, not to be seen again until either the demolition or remodeling of the house.
    Or, until our current circumstance, wherein a leak in our foundation made necessary a refitting of all incoming water pipes.  This led to opening the wall and actually viewing many of the discarded blades of the past, a sight that I never thought we'd behold (we salvaged one as a memento  to be placed in some sort of protective case and hung on Christmas trees to come).  We're a nostalgic family, but I must be honest that I never dreamed a rusty razor blade would be included in our fond memories.

     We know some of the history of our home, including that of the owners who would have lived here during the days of double-edged blades.  It makes me wonder about them, and the lives they lived.  In my mind's eye, I can see Mr. Clikas, standing at the bathroom sink shaving, and then removing and inserting a spent blade into the discard slot.  I wonder if he thought about the blades, and whether someone would one day have opportunity to discover them.  Maybe, maybe not.  One thing is certain.  It's a very different world from the one in which those blades last saw the light of day. 

     "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh" (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

    In younger days, the hands of time seem to move as if mired in glue.  As we grow older, however, the passage of time greases the gears, and we more and more feel our earthly days slipping away.  Even more, we sense change in ourselves and in the world.  Some alterations leave us grateful; I surely wouldn't want to shave with the old style blades!  Some, however, make us sad.  Most of us with a few years under our belts are presently feeling such discomfort in significant ways.  It doesn't seem that long ago when we lived in a nation and culture wherein an umbrella of Judeo-Christian influence pervaded many of the important arenas of life.  This is largely gone, no less than modern bathroom cabinets need not include a razor blade discard slot.  The loss feels palpable, and we rightly mourn and prayerfully hope that somehow we may someday return to the beliefs and mores that guided our forefathers.  It doesn't seem likely, does it?  Thus, we will likely have to adjust ourselves to life as it presently exists in order to truly live, rather than pine for days that may not come again.

     Our Heavenly Father is prepared for every contingency of our lives.  He sees them coming, and nothing confronts us that does not find Him waiting to be abundantly more than we need Him to be.  This we must believe in times such as these, first because it is true, and then because longing for days gone by wastes the time and opportunity of this day.  What will our Lord do to reveal His surpassing glory in a culture that seeks, futilely, to exclude Him?  How brightly will His light shine in the darkness of these days?  Where will the Lord Jesus display the greatness of His redeeming power within the devil's very backyard?  Those who refuse to pine will be those with eyes to see and hearts to expect the work of God where it seems it could not be manifest.  Rusty blades, discarded long ago, make me think of such things, and give me hope.

"The hope of the righteous shall be gladness."
(Proverbs 10:28)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Wonder and Warning"

     The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ provides both necessary wonder and essential warning to those who believe.

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!" (Romans 11:33).  
     "The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:30-31).

     Our Heavenly Father provides the freest grace to His trusting children in Christ without jeopardizing His integrity.  He is "both just and the justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).  We either glorify Him by experiencing His blessing as we continue in faith, or we glorify Him by becoming subjects of His chastening if we significantly wander from the faith that began our relationship with God.  Indeed, if we could quantifiably measure joy and misery, we would discover the happiest person on the planet to be a born again Christian who presently trusts and submits unto the Lord in circumstances wherein such joy seems impossible.  Conversely, the most miserable heart would belong to some believer who has turned away from trusting and submitting to the Lord Jesus.  God loves us enough to both bless us with "joy unspeakable", and to "chasten" and "scourge" us when and as necessary (I Peter 1:8; Hebrews 12:6).

     The writers of Scripture, as led by the Holy Spirit, lavish us with the wonder of God's lovingkindness in Christ.  They do not fail, however, to warn us of God's loving chastening in Christ.  In our present existence, we require both expressions of our Heavenly Father's perfect devotion to us.  We do well to remember, and to remind each other that the Hand which caresses is also the Hand that wields the rod of correction.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
(Ephesians 1:3)
"Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
(Colossians 1:27-28)

Monday, June 17, 2013


     Our native tendency leads us to hide from God rather than seek Him.

Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 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 3:8-10).

    In essence, Adam confessed, "I heard... I feared... I hid."  Moreover, he declared his reason for such response involved being unclothed, a state of undress that Adam and Eve didn't know existed until they partook of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:25).  Distrust and disobedience led to more than the first man and woman needed to know, and thus to alienation from God. 

As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).  In order to overcome our alienation tendency, God clothes us in the Lord Jesus when we believe by spiritually immersing us in His Son.  "Of God are ye in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30).  Thus, we approach our Heavenly Father fully dressed, as it were,with no need to be afraid because we are no longer naked in God's sight.  We come by Christ, through Christ, and in Christ, and we come in no other way.   "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Romans 5:1-2).

    This truth especially blesses us in times when, like Adam and Eve, we distrust and disobey our Lord.  Indeed, in the very time when we  most need to come to Him, strong devilish and fleshly temptation screams or whispers to us, "You can't come to God like that!  You're not dressed, and your sin proves how unworthy and inappropriate it is that you should approach God!"  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Again, we come always by Christ, through Christ, and in Christ.  In times of our greatest faith and faithfulness, we no more come by our own merits and works than in times of our greatest sin and failure.  We approach God as spiritually enrobed in the righteousness of His Son, that is, the person and work of the Lord Jesus grants us entree to God, as opposed to our own person and work.  "I am the way" declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples, and He declares it to us (John 14:6).

     Few Biblical truths are more important to remember and affirm.  We do well to begin our prayers with remembrance of the One who paved our way to the throne of God.  It is a Blood-stained path, and one that bears the prints of marred Feet, wounded on our behalf.  Yes, in direct proportion to the degree that the Lord Jesus suffered, died, and was forsaken on the cross of Calvary, we are forgiven, clothed, and accepted forevermore as the freest gift of the freest grace. 

Holy Father, we come to Thee.
By the grace of Your Son and His blood,
we come to Thee.

And our hearts are amazed, and filled with the praise
of Your glory.
Yes, our hearts are amazed...

Blessed Savior, we come by Thee.
By the power of Your life and Your love,
we come by Thee.

And our hearts are amazed, and filled with the praise 
of Your glory.
Yes, our hearts are amazed...

Holy Spirit, we come through Thee,
in the grace of Your presence and peace,
we come through Thee.

And our hearts are amazed, and filled with the praise
of Your glory.
Yes, our hearts are amazed...

"Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
(Ephesians 2:18)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"To the Giver"

    In those times when we feel unappreciated, we do well to consider God's sensibilities in like circumstances.

    "He giveth to all life and breath and all things... Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (Acts 17:25; James 1:17).

    Our Heavenly Father does not require our gratitude, and is perfectly fulfilled with or without it.  Nor does He do what He does for us in order to be thanked.  Nevertheless, He doubtless finds blessing in our appreciation, just as we appreciate affirmation for the things we do.  He likely also grieves when we fail to live a life of thanksgiving, noso much because of His emotional sensibilities, but because of what it says about our spiritual understanding and recognition.  An unthankful heart is a blind heart at best, and a bitter one at worst.  A.WTozer once wrote that "thanksgiving is the sweetener of the soul."  Indeed, a challenging world will foster bitterness in anyone who fails to open his eyes amid the difficulties of life in order to see how blessed we all really are.  Our very breath, including the next one, comes to us from a God who could justifiably banish every one of us to everlasting perdition.  Instead, He offers His grace and mercy to all, and freely redeems unto eternal life with Himself all who trust in the greatest beneficence of all, the Lord Jesus Christ: "Now thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift" (II Corinthians 9:15).

     The God whom Solomon declares to find delight in our prayers must especially rejoice when He hears from His trusting children the simplicity of "Thank You, Father" (Proverbs 15:8).  If this be so, and certainly it is, this very moment offers the opportunity of blessing the heart of One who perpetually blesses and provides for us.  Thus, we close to get out of the way in order that we may all express our heartfelt gratitude to the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift...

"I thank Thee and praise Thee, o God of my fathers."
(Daniel 2:23)

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Who Art Thou, Lord?"

Parents can and should be a vital expression and reflection of God to their children.  "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" wrote the Apostle Paul to Christian parents, a command that must be exemplified in how we live no less than communicated in word (Ephesians 6:4).

   Regardless, however, of how faithfully we model our Heavenly Father, none of us approach the perfection of His character, nature, and way.  This results in false impressions and interpretations in our children's minds about the most important matter of their existence, namely, who is God, and what kind of Father is He?  I often pray for our children that the Lord would mercifully redeem them from the too many episodes when I failed to mirror to them the heart and hand of their Heavenly Father.  Be it in word, attitude, action, or inaction, I am painfully aware that they didn't always see in my fathering the Divine parental character, nature, and way that moves us to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, at times they saw who God the Father is not, as opposed to who He is.

    In our own lives, the same truth applies.  No matter how godly our father and mother may have been, they did not perfectly express the fathering of God.  Thus, we must seek to discover His parental ways in the perfect light and authority given for such grace.

     "Every word of God is pure... The entrances of Thy words giveth light" (Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 119:130).

     Only in Scripture, as illuminated and interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can we discover without admixture of error the true nature of God.  "Who art Thou, Lord?" (Acts 9:5).  Of all the communication we have with our Heavenly Father after entering into relationship through Christ, none compares with the request that He would tell us who He is.  The answer, discovered in ongoing consideration of the Bible, provides the very foundation of life and existence, as well as the power to become like our Father.  "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).

    If we have or had godly parents, let us rejoice in the gift they are to us, seeking to follow their example and heed their counsel.  However, let us also realize their inability to perfectly reflect the sublime glory of our Father inHeaven.  He must reveal Himself to us as He truly is.  "Who art Thou, Lord?"  We can ask no better question, and we can be sure that the Father who so loves us rejoices to answer.  An open Bible and a heart expectant of the Holy Spirit's illumination provides the light that leads us to rightly know our Father, and thus, to increasingly walk in His character, nature, and way.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
(Ephesians 1:3)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Jumping To Conclusions"

       "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

     Walking down a city street early this morning, I noticed a man approaching.  The look on his face from a distance elicited the immediate thought that he was not in a good mood.  I suspected that if I made eye contact and said hello (we still do that in the Deep South of the United States!), he woulignore me.

    Just the opposite happened.  I looked at the man as our paths crossed and said "Good morning."  He immediately responded with a soft, but gracious voice, "Good morning!"  I immediately realized how wrong and unfair my initial assessment of the gentleman had been.  I then remembered our Lord's admonition to avoid appearance-based assessments, especially of people.  Indeed, appearances may indicate something about people, particularly of their hearts, but they may not.  Thus, we do well to emphasize the "righteous judgment" of God and His Word, beginning with the Bible's clear proclamation of how limited we are in determining inner realities by outward indications.  "Give me understanding" asked the Psalmist, who well knew his desperate need for the Lord's illumination (Psalm 119:34).

    Jumping to conclusions about people based on appearance indicates that we don't know ourselves very well.  That is, we fail to recognize our fleshly tendency to base truth and reality on our limited powers of discernment.  We also fail to access the grace whereby we base our expectations on the Lord's personal involvement in ordering the steps of our lives (Psalm 37:23).  Indeed, I do not believe the crossing of paths with the aforementioned gentleman this morning happened as a matter of mere chance and circumstance.  No, I received further education (much needed!) concerning the truth we presently consider, as well as being afforded the privilege of sharing this with you.  Moreover, I have opportunity to pray for the man, whom I may never see again, but for whom I can make request unto the Lord for a lifetime.  Join me in that regard, and let us all expect many opportunities to overcome the temptation to "judge... according to the appearance."  Our Lord rather calls us to His "righteous judgment" whereby God-centered evaluations lead us in Truth and the love of Christ.

"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)