Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Our Father Made All This!"

(Thanks to Char for inspirationon this one.)                    

 The Crayola Crayon Company only wishes it could manufacture hues and colors like the Lord paints on Mobile Bay at sunrise and sunset.    

After writing about the earth and sky yesterday, Frances and I took our first kayaking journey of the season on the water last evening.  It seems almost criminal to write those words: first kayaking journey of the season - on July 30?!  Schedules and weather have caused the delay.  When there's been time, that has also been rain (and more importantly, lightning).  And, when the skies have been clear, our schedule has been full.  After eating supper last night, on the spur of the moment I asked Frances if she wanted to attempt a quick voyage before sundown. 

"I'll be ready in a minute" she responded without a moment's hesitation.  She actually prepared herself in less than a minute (maybe less than a second!), and we were quickly on the road with boats and gear to reach the site where we launch and paddle.    

I'm almost glad that we've been delayed this year because it made yesterday's voyage all the more enjoyable and appreciated.  Moreover, the aforementioned artistry of our Heavenly Father seemed even more amazing than ever.  As the sun slipped behind a cloud bank while setting, we witnessed blues, greens, silvers, grays, whites, and perhaps unknown refractions of God's spectrum unite to form colors for which only He has a name.  Or, sometimes the individual hues seemed to separate for a moment to reveal their singular beauty before melding together yet again for a dazzling display of sparkle and splash.  It's a stunning exhibition that elicits worship and wonder, along with the sense that we've been invited to a personal showing of the Artist who also happens to be our Father.    

This reminds me of a thought that always troubles me, or more literally, an illustration.  Imagine your child to be an artist (I have one of those).  She's been asked to perform an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where she will display her work.  The day arrives, and you're there of course, bursting with thanksgiving and pride that your offspring so takes after her mother!  As you mill around, however, listening closely for the comments of admiration you know you'll hear from those attending the exhibition, you're shocked to discover that the attendees seem completely oblivious to the artist who produced the masterpieces they view with awe and delight. 

"Amazing," says one, "that such beauty could have spontaneously appeared, with no heart and mind to create it." 

"Indeed," responds another, "fate, chance, and time always fascinate me in their ability to produce form, complexity, and loveliness!"  A few more such comments, and Dad is ready to punch somebody! 

"Wake up!" you want to scream to the dullards who obviously don't understand art or the artist. 

"How can you think that this beauty just happened?!  Are you all out of your minds???  My daughter made all this!"   

At the exhibition we attended yesterday on Mobile Bay, Frances and I rejoiced together.  Our Father made all this!  Moreover, He invited us to the show because He knew that we know.  Yes, we are keenly aware that those hues, colors, and sparkles don't just appear out of spontaneous nothingness.  They rather proceed forth from a Heart and a Mind even more beautiful than the art itself.  How much we would miss if we didn't know this, even as a good friend and fellow kayaker mentioned in an email just last night: "I feel sorry for those who cruised down the river and missed the glory."  Indeed, the glory exists far more in the Artist than the art, and what a sad waste of both time and eternity for those who attend the exhibition without worshipping and admiring the Exhibitor.  But what a wonderful experience of both time and eternity for those who know, who acknowledge, who appreciate, and who love to realize and to declare it:  "Our Father made all this!"

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"The Earth and the Sky"   

(Thanks to Gary S. for inspiration on this one.)       

   I'm all for paved roads, buildings, and the many man made structures that protect us from the elements, smooth out our transportation, and in many cases, provide beautiful shapes and forms that enhance our lives. I'm also most grateful for electricity, and in particular, the illumination that often beautifies the night, and always keeps it from being really dark! :)    

That being said, I do believe that covering up God's good earth brings with it spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical liabilities and limitations.  Moreover, the ambient electrical light of cities and towns that brightens our evenings also hinders us from viewing the full wonder of our Lord's night sky.   

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

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).      

Messages speak to us and sing to us from the earth and the sky, communicating realities that transcend created things, but which nevertheless speak forth in vivid display of the Divine.      

"The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead" (Romans 1:20).      

We need these messages of the unseen, as revealed in the seen.  If possible, therefore, we do well to frequently expose ourselves to the earth and the sky.  Such experience confirms and enhances our conceptual understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ and His truth, as provided in the Scriptures.  Indeed, it is one thing to read of King David's enraptured fascination with God's creative handiwork in Psalms such as the 104th:  "O LORD, how manifold are Thy works!  In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches" (Psalm 104:24).  It is quite another to share such experience, to the degree that we joyfully conclude with David, "I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD!" (Psalm 104:33-34).      I write these words in the comfort of our air conditioned home, for which I give thanks.  I also write, however, with much anticipation and determination to avail myself of glories that cannot be known within the confines of man's handiwork.  The sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, and the earth await to express their wonder to the senses God formed in us, whereby we more fully discover the beauty of His heart, and the miracle of His mind.  May our Lord grant to each of us much opportunity to look, to listen, and to worship as the gifts of His creative hand bear witness to the grace of His compassionate heart.

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

"The heavens shall declare His righteousness."(Psalm 50:6)

Monday, July 29, 2013

  "The Fateful Figure"    

  "Art Thou a king then?" (Pontius Pilate, upon his interrogation of the Lord Jesus Christ, before consigning Him to the cross - John18:37).    

Pilate had no frame of reference for a king who failed to act like a king (according to Pilate's definition).  The man who stood before him, whose fate seemed to be in the Roman procurator's hands, sought no pomp, no circumstance, no trappings of royalty, and no exercise of earthly power.  He rather seemed content to exercise complete control over His own person and response to inquisition, a determination in which He was stunningly successful.  This befuddled Pilate, and the Biblical account of his encounter with the Lord Jesus indicates great consternation and even fear in the man who, by all appearances, held the fate of the Accused in his already bloody hands.  Pilate, however, seemed to know that the strange king he condemned was actually a disturbingly fateful figure who troubled the Roman leader to the very core of his soul.  "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it" (Matthew27:24).     

The Lord Jesus is the "fateful figure" in all our lives.  Who we deem Him to be determines our eternal destiny, as well as our experience in this hour, and this moment.  Is He the Christ of God, despite the fact that He still works without royal fanfare in our lives, and in the world?  How we answer this question impacts the very core of our souls no less than it determined Pilate's fate so long ago.  Indeed, some historical records indicate that Pontius Pilate ended his own life by suicide not too many years after his role in the death of the Lord Jesus.  In the same manner, we live or die based upon our perspective of Christ, even as the Apostle Paul declared, "To live is Christ" (Philippians1:21).  We begin a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus.  We continue that relationship through the Lord Jesus.  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).  Ever and always, Christ is the issue, the fateful figureof this and of every moment.     

The challenge of such truth involves the fact that our King still often works and acts in our lives in a manner that often does not seem royal.  Christians believe that God created and sustains the entire universe by His word (Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 1:3).  Thus, we also believe that a simple word from our King's mouth can change our circumstance, situation, or condition.  Often, however, He seems not to speak such a word.  He does not command our problem to be solved, our challenge to be immediately overcome, our weakness to be strengthened, or our illness to abate.  He rather seems to remain quiet and still, no matter how often and diligently we pray and trust.  As with Pilate, he doesn't act kingly, at least according to our definition.  "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).    

How we respond when Christ's royalty seems veiled largely determines the quality of our lives and relationship with God.  "We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  Long ago, an earthly ruler could not understand how a true king could act as did the King of kings.  We will wonder the same at times, and we do well to remember that our Potentate is the fateful figure of all things, regardless of how He chooses to exercise His Divine royalty.

"What think ye of Christ?  Whose son is He?"(Matthew 22:42)

Saturday, July 27, 2013


    (Friends: this is a repeat from 2003, and addresses the issue we considered yesterday.  Several questions for contemplation follow.  Thanks, Glen.)

          "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). 

      The wonder of Christ living His life in us, and our living our lives by Him, presents a challenge to which there are no final answers in this lifetime.  Instead, we are involved in an ongoing discovery of God’s role and our role in the relationship.  If we could presently engage in an audible discussion with our Heavenly Father, perhaps the consideration might proceed as follows:

       "Heavenly Father, this command of Your Word is beyond my abilities, I cannot fulfill it."

       "Yes, I know, My child, you cannot."

       "Oh then, since You know my weakness, You will fulfill it for me.  Thank You, my Father!"

        "No, My child, I will not fulfill it for you."

        "But, Father, I cannot do it, I have no strength equal to the task!"

        "Yes, My child, this is true, you have not and you cannot."

        "So then, Father, You must do it for me!"

        "No, My child, I will not do it for you."

        "But Father, You're telling me to do something You acknowledge I cannot do, and that You won't do. 

        "This is true, My child.  You cannot and I will not."

        "But Father, how..."

        "Be quiet, My child, still yourself and listen.  It is true that you cannot fulfill My will.  And it is also true that I will not fulfill it for you.  You cannot and I will not, but...

         "Yes, my Father?"

         "You cannot and I will not - but together we will!"

          "We will, my Father?"

          "Yes, we will, My child.  I will be the wisdom, the motivation, the power, the life, and most of all, the love that must fill and fragrance our every doing.  You will be the trusting recipient of all that I am and all that I do.  You will believe Me and by faith submit your whole being unto Me for My purposes and glory.  Yes, I will be the Vine and you will be the branch upon which I bear My choicest fruit.  Together, My child, we will."
      "Yes, my Father, we will."

       The presence of the Spirit of Christ in our trusting hearts draws us into a relationship with God wherein both the Divine and the human actively participate.  We are not robots in whom He merely programs our responses and doings.  Our Heavenly Father rather constitutes believers as living persons with whom He relates by revealing Himself and His truth in order to lead us to the conscious, decisive response of faith and devotion to Him.  The relationship is personal, and it is free in the sense that neither party coerces the other. “When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8).  

      God is always first.  He ever calls, leads, draws, woos, and motivates.  We respond to His moving within us.  Our experience and application of the relationship proceeds in direct proportion to faith, submission and the determination to know our Lord in a manner mutually pleasing to both Him and to us.  Yes, the Christian life is "we" - Christ lives in us and we live by Him.

     "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
(Philippians 2:12-13)
      "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)    
      “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (II Corinthians 4:7).

Questions For Consideration

1.  Why does God desire that we have an active role in our relationship with Him?

2.  Obviously, it is also possible to seek through determination and self discipline to do that which only God can do.  What might be the consequences be of this error?

3.  On the other hand, it is also possible to expect God to do that which we ourselves are commanded by the Bible to do through His power.  What might result if we fail to engage ourselves in the relationship?

Friday, July 26, 2013

"He Lives, We Live"

(Thanks to Hugh for inspiration on this one.)

      "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

     The Apostle Paul testifies of an interesting journey of faith in this often-considered passage concerning life in Christ.

     First, Paul declares himself departed - "I am crucified with Christ."  Immediately, however, the Apostle returns - "nevertheless I live."  He leaves again - "yet not I" - but finally returns to stay and to live, albeit by and through Christ - "the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God."  Herein we discover the dynamic spiritual process whereby God delivers us from the futility of fleshly independence unto the faithfulness of living by the auspices and power of Another.

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).

    God made the human race to serve as His dwelling-place.  In Adam, however, we embraced the lie that we could "be as gods," and thus live in and of ourselves (Genesis 3:5).  This delusion must end as as our Heavenly Father calls His trusting children to believe that the godless, independent person of our unbelieving life was "crucified with Christ."  Paul also taught that we are "risen with Him," and thus, were not annihilated when we trusted in the Lord Jesus.  The Apostle therefore affirms, "I live" (Colossians 2:12).  However, we must discover that the person we now are in Christ cannot independently live the Christian life anymore than we could have accomplished such a lofty goal before we believed.  "Yet not I" confesses Paul regarding this truth, or as the Lord Jesus said, "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  We must discover that our living is the fruit of Christ's life actualizing and empowering our unique personhood and faculties.  We still live, but we do so "through Him."

    A growing understanding of this New Testament dynamic of life through Christ leads us to proper dependence upon the Lord Jesus, and also to proper exercising of our capacities and faculties.  We obey Paul's command to "exercise thyself rather unto godliness," but we do so in the recognition that the strength for such endeavor arises not from ourselves.  "
I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (I Timothy 4:7; Colossians 1:29).  We "labor," but we do so from the basis of confidence in "His working."  This understanding delivers us from the laissez-faire and unbiblical passivity of "letting go and letting God," unto the Scriptural truth of a Christ-actualized person and life.  We live in the enthusiasm of expectation that God will faithfully show Himself strong on our behalf as we trust and submit ourselves to Him.

     The Spirit of Christ lives in us so that we may live through Him.  This comprises the prevailing New Testament teaching whereby our Lord inhabits us for the purpose not of removing or replacing us, but rather of enabling us to consciously live in both dependence and active exercise of the marvelous human faculties He bestowed upon us.  "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).  Is it Christ?  Yes, of course!  Without Him, we can do nothing.  Is it us?  Yes, of course.  I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  He lives in us, and we live by and through Him...

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 15:10)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"High Expectations"

      It is said that children tend to succeed and accomplish in proportion to the expectations set forth for them.  Challenge rather than coddling produces responsible human beings who respect their own God-given dignity, as well as that of others.

     "Unto whomsoever much is given, much shall be required" (Luke 12:48).

     In spiritual terms, high expectations based on God's abundant provision in Christ instills in born again believers anticipation for a life of faith and faithfulness.  "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).  Conversely, low expectations for godliness reveal that we focus upon ourselves rather than "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Indeed, do we anticipate that godliness will characterize our attitudes, words, actions, and relatings in this day?  Some might say that an affirmative answer to this question indicates pride and arrogance on our part.  Certainly, this could be the case if we base our confidence on our own dedication and discipline.  The Christian life cannot be lived by such fleshly means.  If, however, we ground our hope in the presence and promise of the God who "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure," how can we fail to join the Psalmist in his exultant affirmation, "My expectation is from Him" (Philippians 2:13; Psalm 62:5; emphasis added). 

     Past experience may scream at us, "You've failed before, and you'll fail again!"  Prospects of the future may appear dim despite the light of our Lord's promises of leading and enabling.  Moreover, our present sensibility may emphasize our native weakness rather than God's abiding strength in Christ.  What will we believe?  Or rather, Who will we believe?  Will we establish our expectation for this day on the living and true Word of the living and true God?  If so, high expectations will fill our hearts with hope.  We shall not be disappointed as through our indwelling Lord, we walk in a manner far beyond our natural abilities and capacities.  Even if we stumble along the way, and at times we shall, our Christ-instilled confidence will cause us to arise, stand, and walk again in expectation of the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, high expectations in the heart of believers leads to high performance when based upon the presence and working of the God who promises to provide Himself as the power of godliness...

"I will dwell in them and walk in them."
(II Corinthians 6:16)
"We shall live with Him by the power of God."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Christ - Made Perfect?"

     "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).

    Perfect in His divinity, the Lord Jesus Christ nevertheless required a lifetime of experiencing and overcoming human challenge in order to become our Savior.  "Without shedding of blood is no remission (pardon)" (Hebrews 9:22).  God could not merely save us by Divine fiat, as it were.  In order to remain just in His justification of sinners, our Heavenly Father required an atonement to be made by one like ourselves in both our humanity and our experience as human beings.  In this sense, the Lord Jesus was not perfect or complete in His office as our Redeemer until He had lived such a lifetime, and more importantly, until He had died on the cross in obedience to His Father's will.  This our Lord accomplished, dying as a "Lamb without blemish, and without spot," and thus becoming the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ "able to save them to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him" (I Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:25). 

    That our Lord "learned obedience" and was "made perfect" reveals the amazing condescension He embraced for our sake.  A Being of infinite and eternal perfection enrobed Himself with the humble and human limitation whereby He knew life as we know it (excepting, of course, our sin).  He experienced development and advancement - "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).  Moreover, He lived a life of dependent faith such as God calls us to embrace - "I can do nothing of Myself... I live by the Father" (John 8:28; 6:57).  No consideration will more instill in us wonder and worship than this realization of Christ's lowliness, whereby His exceeding greatness is all the more revealed and exalted.  "Thy gentleness hath made me great" (Psalm 18:35).

     For a long eternity, we will gaze upon the wounds of nails in our Savior's hands and feet, and the print of a spear that once pierced His side (as one has said, the only imperfections of Heaven).  His marred body will tell us of wonders too glorious to comprehend and describe, and of a loving humility that may drive to our faces even more than His surpassing excellence and glory.  Such condescension, such a Savior, and such a joy to anticipate forever in His presence made all the more glorious by His sublime lowliness.

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain."
(Revelation 5:5-6)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"From Whence the Music Came"

     As I walked this morning, I listened to a selection of modern classical music beautiful in its melodies, harmonies, and flowing rhythm (not always the case with modern classical).  The music immediately elicited praise to our Lord for the beauty of His character, nature, way, and creativity.  It also raised a question in my mind, "Does the composer and artist (which were one and the same) know from whence the music came?"

    I hope so.  All genuine beauty proceeds from the God to whom the Psalmist prayed, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (Psalm 90:17).  This does not mean, however, that the vessel knows or acknowledges the Source of that which which flows in and through it.  Humanity cannot escape the reality of the God who "giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  Nor can we fail to receive from Him things necessary for our survival, and often, even for our thriving.  "Thou openest Thine hand and satisifieth the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16).  Thus, beautiful things sometimes come forth from those who may not only disbelieve, but who may even violently reject the reality of the Maker of all beauty.  "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee" (Psalm 76:10).

     The universe is a gallery and studio of glory upon which an Artist of unimaginable genius composes, paints, and forms wonders designed to bless human senses with beauty that graces our hearts with joy, and then raises the question, "From whence did the music come?"  Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ know the answer, and we seek to introduce those who don't know to the Source of all truth, goodness, and beauty.  I pray for the composer and artist of the music to which I listened this morning, that if she knows from whence the music comes, she will have the same response of worship that filled my heart as I listened to her art.  And, if she does not know, may the beauty of God as revealed in the Lord Jesus be discovered as her personal Source and Savior.

"The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead."
(Romans 1:20)

Monday, July 22, 2013

"This Place"

     The facts of God's heart must become the faith of ours.  Or rather, His "I AM"  must become our "You are."

     "I am the Lord...Thou art my Lord" (Exodus 6:2; Psalm 16:2).

    Salvation establishes the objective reality of God as our subjective reality.  Growing relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit accomplishes the same purpose.  Truths that have been eternally true about our Lord become truths that meet us where we are along the pathway of our personal history and experience.  We appropriate the Actual, as it were, discovering in practical and living reality the wonder of the God in whom we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).

    The role of born again believers in such appropriation is the faith whereby we open the eyes of our heart to reality.  Indeed, we do not bring God into our life and experience when we trust Him and submit ourselves to Him.  He has always been there, but we have been blind and asleep to the blessed reality.  Therefore, our Lord rather brings us into the truth of our life and experience when we believe His Word.  As Jacob mourned when realizing his failure to see at Bethel, so must we also too often confess, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16).

    The Lord is in "this place" of our lives.  He is the "I AM" of it, whatever its circumstance, situation, condition, blessing, or challenge.  Our appropriation of such Actuality awaits only the heartfelt and determined affirmation, "You are!"   We may not perceive such blessed reality with our senses, and our understanding may fall short of comprehending what our Heavenly Father is doing, and how He is doing it.  In our hearts, however, we can believe, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit who forever bears witness to the glory in which we eternally exist.  Yes, God is.  He declares unto us, "I AM."  We respond, "You are."  This is the blessed reality of grace through faith whereby creatures of time and space realize Heavenly realities long before we gaze upon streets of gold and gates of pearl.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
(Hebrews 11:1)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"The Brains of All"

     One of our dearest Orange Moon readers is a calculus teacher who, in her retirement, teaches other calculus teachers.

     Phyllis is conducting a workshop this weekend, which led me to wonder about the cumulative IQ of her and those to whom she will be speaking.  I suspect it's off the charts, and what with my aversion to higher math (I became hopelessly lost after Algebra 1/2, which would have been Algebra I if my faulty brain hadn't led me astray during the second semester of the course), I think I would feel pretty intimidated in the company of such mental firepower.   

    It's a good thing to regularly find yourself in the presence of people you know to be much smarter than yourself.  You're properly humbled, of course, but even more, you remember the One whose "understanding is infinite," and upon whom we all depend for knowledge, wisdom, and applied understanding (Psalm 147:5).

For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6).

     I suspect that not all of Phyllis's students this weekend are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  All, however, are utterly dependent on Him to fulfill their lofty calling to teach calculus.  They may not know it, and they may even reject the notion that God gifted and gifts them in a special way.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  Calculus teachers, however, like people in every discipline and responsibility, ply their trade in the illumination provided by the Source of all life, being, and activity.  "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  Those like Phyllis who know such Truth to be true experience the blessedness not only of mathematical knowledge and understanding, but also of the wisdom whereby a proper humility graces both heart and mind.  As the Apostle Paul declared of his high calling, "
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 15:10).

    From the elementary truth of 1 + 1 = 2 (my kind of math!), to the most advanced levels of calculus, to every aspect and form of received and applied truth, the brains of all require the light of God to function and endure.  How sad to be the subject of such Divine enabling, but not to know it!  And how joyous to live in the reality of the Lord's gracious bestowal of knowledge and understanding, accompanied by the wisdom that bows both mind and heart to acknowledge the Giver of life and breath and all things! (Acts 17:25).  I rejoice that the teacher of the aforementioned calculus workshop this weekend knows and rejoices in the Light of reality, and I'm sure that Phyllis will appreciate your prayers for God's leadership and enabling.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."
(Proverbs 1:7)
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
(Proverbs 9:10)     

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dear Orange Moon Friends,

     We've had a pretty big response to the Shrimp and Grits piece, requesting the recipe.  So, to save time, I'm sending it out to all, and if you're not interested, just delete with our apologies for burdening your email inbox.  Here goes.

Glen and Frances's Shrimp and Grits (this makes, at most, 2-3 servings.  It's best not prepared in big batches).

1 lb fresh medium or large shrimp (Gulfshrimp, of course, if you can get them)
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 and 1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning (Old Bay is good)
Lemon wedge

Sprinkle shrimp with seasoning and a little salt.  Mince garlic finely.
Heat 1 and 1/2 Tbsp butter and the oil in pan on medium heat until butter is almost completely melted.  Add shrimp.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, moving shrimp often.

Add garlic.  Continue to move shrimp and garlic often.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add butter and a few squeezes of lemon wedge.  Stir for 30 seconds. 

Serve shrimp and sauce over buttered grits (which you've been cooking simultaneously.  Don't use, by the way, instant grits.  Detestable.  Quick grits are fine, however, and take 5-8 minutes to prepare, about the same time as the scampi).  There won't be a huge amount of sauce, but you don't need a lot because the flavor is so concentrated.

Frances says to use more butter than you think you should in the grits  (about 1 1/2 tbsp per serving) and stir them continuously to get the desired creamy consistency.

Simple and sublime.  Thank the Lord, and think nice thoughts about the folks who gave you this recipe!

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Shrimp and Grits"

(If you ask politely, I'll give you the recipe.  Sadly, however, if you don't live along the Gulf Coast of the UniteStates, where the finest and most delectable shrimp in the world swim, you won't be able to duplicate it).

     This afternoon, Frances and I lunched on our version of shrimp and grits, unarguably the finest rendition of this culinary miracle you could ever hope to enjoy (I make this claim with all due humility, of course).

     Frances makes the grits, which are, if you've never had them, composed of coarsely ground corn cooked in water until they become soft and creamy, upon which time you then load them up with real butter (please, please never disgrace yourself or good grits by adding the form of plastic often referred to as margarine!  Or any of those other weird substitutes, none of which can ever begin to to take the place of God's gift of the authentic glory known as butter).  Frances's grits are the real deal, stirred continually, with the butter added at just the right time, along with just the right amount of salt (which causes me, by the way, to recall that time in the border state Kentucky where I was surprised to see grits on the menu at our hotel.  I ordered them, and things were fine until the first bite when I discovered that somebody had put sugar into that gift of God that He never intended to be, of all things, sweetened! I nearly ransacked the restaurant!   AAArrrrggg!).

    I make the shrimp.  Actually, you might say I make the shrimp scampi, a combination of butter, creole seasoning, garlic, lemon, shrimp, and butter.  Yes, butter x 2.  At the start, and at the finish.  If I do say so myself, the end product is Divine, and if I do say so myself yet again, my version is my version.  That is, it's my original recipe, as led and enabled no doubt by the Holy Spirit (who alone could have come up with this wonder of God's wisdom and my saute pan).

    When Frances and I both finish our handiwork, we put it all together (that's why it's called shrimp and grits.  Well, you probably figured that out, didn't you?).  I would try to describe the taste, the texture, and oh yes, the aroma that fills the house as you cook the dish.  But they haven't made words yet that can do justice to these wonders.  Suffice it to say that when I give thanks before we partake, I really give thanks! 

    I share all this with you to make you ravenous!  Just kidding!  No, there's a spiritual truth and reality in all of the silliness and seriousness.  Namely, that much of life involves the combining of components whereby the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  I'm all for shrimp, lemon, garlic, creole seasoning and lemon as individual entities in and of themselves (yes, I've been known to suck on lemons and even chew a little chopped garlic).  Put all these jewels together, however, and... well, again, no existing words suffice to express such goodness.  This reminds me of the great Component Coordinator, as it were.

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).

    Few truths more bless us in times of both pleasure and difficulty than this assurance that our Heavenly Father possesses the capacity to fit everything into our lives for His good purpose of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).  He wastes nothing, including the smiles, the tears, and the everyday and mundane moments when it seems that nothing is happening, but which may actually comprise some of God's greatest working in our lives.  At the end, something far greater than shrimp and grits appears.  "
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).  We shall appear in glory, perfectly changed into the spiritual and moral likeness of our blessed Savior, and eternally fragranced with the sweet savor of His love.  All this will occur because the components of our lives, all of them, were united by the Great Coordinator to accomplish His eternal purpose in Christ.

    I can still smell the aroma of the dish we enjoyed this afternoon wafting through our home.  As I do, I think of far greater things, and of the far Greater One who combines components, including whatever characterizes this moment in our lives, to fulfill wonderful things to come that we can only barely imagine at present.  And, even more than before that meal this afternoon, I bow head and heart to give thanks.

"God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
(Ephesians 1: 3; 11)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"A Family Matter"

     "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).

     The High Priest who appears in the presence of God for us also bears a familial relationship to those who trust in His intercessory work.

In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17).
Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (John 20:17).

    Our Brother appears before our Father as the mediator who made atonement for our sins, and who now "ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).  One could almost say we benefit by a holy and spiritual nepotism, as it were, because salvation in Christ is a family matter.  The everlasting Father sent His beloved Son into the world for the sublime purpose of not merely forgiving sinners, but of birthing sons and daughters into "the whole family of heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15).  One beloved Son died and rose again in order "to bring many sons unto glory" (Hebrews 2:10).  Moreover, as our brother, the Lord Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us to a Father no less inclined to our benefit and well being than the Mediator who stretches out nail-scarred hands on our behalf.  Add to this the blessed truth that the Holy Spirit "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," and the Triune security of our relationship with God establishes the strongest foundation possible for holy and godly living (Romans 8:26).  We are secured and secure forevermore, and the more such grace, mercy, and truth fills our hearts and minds, the more we will live in a manner that honors and reflects the Family into which we were born again when we believed.

    We conclude with the sublime prayer offered for us by our brotherly High Priest just before He went to the cross that made possible our eternal place at the family table of Heaven.  May His request sink deeply into our hearts, and may the enormity and magnitude of such grace cause within us the determination to love our Father, our Brother, and the Holy Spirit who reveals the love of God in our hearts...

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me. Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world."
(John 17:20-24)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Nonsense Rejected, Truth Embraced"

(Thanks to my dear friend and brother Tom for inspiration on this one.)
     Wherever human beings congregate, for whatever purpose, ideas and notions get bandied about that bear little resemblance to truth and reality.

He came to Capernaum: and being in the house He asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?  But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest" (Mark 9:33-34).

     It always intrigues me that the disciples could have argued about their place and position while in the presence and under the influence of the One who sacrificed His Heavenly exaltation for earthly 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" (Philippians 2:5-7).  How did the disciples allow such an ignoble consideration to sully their ponderings "by the way?"

    I wish I didn't know the answer to this question.  However, I've too often been a participant in considerations of absurdity with fellow believers, unwittingly in most cases, but nevertheless later (when I came to my senses) discovered and realized as nonsensical and unworthy wastes of time.  Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are far from immune to the possibility of silly and harmful notions igniting among us, and then spreading like destructive wildfire through the camp.  Indeed, we may be even more susceptible to such danger because, as a good friend recently suggested to me, "Christians can be really gullible!"  Or as A.W. Tozer once wrote, "Some of God's children think that because they are believers, they're supposed to believe any and everything."

    We do well to pray for each other that a discerning heart and mind will grace us both individually and corporately.  It may in fact be just as important that we disbelieve error as it is that we believe the truth.  The New Testament continually calls us to both spiritual responsibilities, and if the light of Christ is to shine forth from us in unhindered illumination, nonsense will have to be rejected just as truth is embraced.  May our Lord lead us by the way to think, speak, and walk faithfully in His way.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
(I John 4:1)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Songs In the Night"

     When faced with difficult and trying circumstances, we are all tempted to join King David in believing that a change in those circumstances would enable us to better know God's peace and joy: "Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest!" (Psalm 55:6). 

    Of course, even a cursory Scripture reading belies such a notion.  In both doctrine and anecdotal evidence, the Old and the New Testament continually call us to believe that peace and joy lie not in circumstance, but in Christ.  "In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore... W
hen they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God" (Psalm 16:11; Acts 16:23-25).

    When we succumb to the deception of believing that circumstance determines the condition of our heart, we may first analyze the failure in terms of ourselves.  "I'm just not dedicated enough, or faithful enough.  I'm just one of those people who has trouble being at peace when things get difficult."  In truth, such bemoaning accurately characterizes all originally born of Adam's race to one degree or another.  The fact of the matter, however, doesn't primarily involve our dedication, or even our faith.  The problem lies in Christ, not directly of course, but rather in our knowledge and understanding of Him.  When we perceive circumstance as the basis of peace and joy, we actually portray the Lord Jesus in our minds (and subsequently, in our attitudes, words, and actions) as not being who He is.  The problem lies not in our weakness, but in our ignorance or failure to know who He is, and thus affirm His strength.  Indeed, our Lord is abundantly able to reveal joy and peace where it seems it could not be.  When we choose to disregard His presence, capacity and ability, we therefore make a statement far more about Him (or our perception of Him) than about ourselves.

    This truth establishes a strong basis for the experience of Christ's peace and joy in the most trying and enduring of circumstances.  Indeed, if the issue is not so much about our personality and proclivity, but rather about His person and work, we stop fighting ourselves and bemoaning our weakness.  We rather seek to remember and affirm the Lord Jesus as our peace and joy.  "With all thy getting, get understanding" declared Solomon in the Old Testament (Proverbs 4:7).  The New Testament fulfills this command by revealing that the understanding we so desperately require concerns the Lord Jesus: "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Such knowledge of Him and His peace and joy- eliciting capacity makes possible a heart at rest in all things, and songs of praise sung in midnight imprisonments.  Yes, this is the Christ whose presence of peace transcends any and every circumstance as we remember who He is, and as we believe in what He can do.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace.  In the world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.'
(John 16:33)

"God... giveth songs in the night."
(Job 35:10)

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Mutual Enjoyment"

     As I sat down to eat breakfast this morning, my mind was busy with thoughts about the coming day and week.  After several bites, I realized I had forgotten to give thanks for the food God provided.

    "Thou openest Thine hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16).
Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (I Timothy 4:4-5).

     I paused for a moment to give thanks, and the thought occurred, "Why am I doing this?"  Thankfully, my primary reason did not involve obligation or responsibility.  Gratitude expressed in a rote manner based upon mere duty lacks the very heart of the matter.  Certainly, giving thanks involves obedience - "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).  However, I suspect that neither God's heart or our own benefits greatly from expressions of thanksgiving offered merely because it's the right thing to do.  There has to be more to genuine gratitude, and thankfully, there is.

    "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).

    We often reference Solomon's declaration that our prayers delight the heart of God.  This doubtless includes all varieties of prayer, but I suspect that offerings of thanksgiving must especially cause our Heavenly Father to rejoice.  This is the thought that occurred to me this morning when I realized I had not given thanks before eating.  I viewed it as a personal matter, namely, that Someone who loves me, and whom I love, provided a meal for me.  Moreover, just as the food would please me, so could I please the heart of its Provider by expressing heartfelt gratitude.  This I did, and just as my breakfast gave pleasure to me, so do I believe my thanksgiving for the breakfast gave pleasure to our Heavenly Father.

    Reality graces our experience of God as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of relationship.  We do not merely abide by principles as we trust in the Lord Jesus.  We rather know Somebody, somebody nearer to us than anyone else, and someone who is with us always.  Mutual enjoyment of the relationship is possible and actual as we trust and submit ourselves to the reality of God's abiding presence both with and within us.  Indeed, I can be sure that I delighted the heart of God this morning, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  Because, again, the Word of God plainly declares that "the prayer of the upright is His delight."  A simple meal therefore became a remembrance of truths that meet us where and as we are because the Truth Himself meets us where and as we are.

"But Thou art holy, o Thou that inhabiteth the praises of Israel."
(Psalm 22:3)
"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord."
(Colossians 3:23)

Friday, July 12, 2013

"A Refuge of Devotion"

     When we think of God's love as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we do well to consider its timeless nature and extent.

    "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

    Forever and ever, the Father has loved the Son, the Son has loved the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit has completed the circle, as it were, of triune devotion, affection, and commitment.  This is love in its essence, the glory of which comprises the great and eternal Relationship that existed when nothing else did.  "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God" (Psalm 90:2).  Indeed, it is more important and spiritually consequential to know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love each other than it is to know that They love us (it is Biblically accurate and permissible, by the way, to reference the one God in plural terms - Genesis 1:26; 3:22; John 17:11).  Such understanding provides the God-centered rather than man-centered perception of love that helps deliver us from our tendency to emphasize ourselves in even so sublime a matter as love.

     When our children were small, Frances and I adopted the determination that it was more important that they know she and I loved each other than that we loved them.  Certainly, we didn't fail to emphasize our devotion to them, but we believed their security rested primarily in the assurance that only death could sever our marriage relationship.  I told them openly and decisively: "If you're going to worry about anything, don't let it be that Mom and I will ever not love each other or separate.  Because I promise you it will not happen."  In times such as these, that was a bold and audacious claim perhaps, but the Lord honored and enabled us to fulfill it.  I believe the assurance provided a foundation of love and assurance for our children that serves them until this day.  More importantly, I believe it reflects the truth of this consideration, namely, that the relationship between the Persons of the triune God serves as the redeeming and assuring bond that establishes and maintains our hearts in peace.  Again, it is more important to know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love each other than it is to know that They love us.  Such blessed truth means there will always be a safe harbor for our hearts, a refuge of devotion that provides the illumination for which our hearts were made...

"In Thy light shall we see light."
(Psalm 36:9)
"The Father loveth the Son... I love the Father... The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which He hath which is given unto us."
(John 3:35; 14:31; Romans 5:5)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Reality of Now"

    I visited a coffee shop last night with our daughters Marie and Emmie.  We had a wonderful time (as anyone would with these amazing young ladies - ok, ok, I'm know that as their dad, I'm biased!  But it's still true!).  On the way home, Marie mentioned that she recently watched a documentary on Islam.  The presentation was not negative toward the religion, but Marie said that she came away from the viewing with the strong sense that Islam offers little more than a ritualistic exercise of duties and sacrifices, as opposed to the personal relationship believers have with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Emmie chimed in that she had a discussion at work a few days ago with a woman who defended her church's practice of ritual and sacrifice.  "Where's the reality in it?" Emmie asked, and then added, "And doesn't the Bible tell us that Christ made for us "one sacrifice for sins forever?" (Hebrews 10:12). 

    First, let me say it:  all these years, my girls have been listening! :)  Seriously, they've come to these conclusions through their own walk with the Lord.  Nevertheless, it thrills me that they realize the Christian gospel offers to all the possibility and actuality of the living God as known in living reality.  Ritualistic ceremony and sacrifice passed away when the Lord Jesus shed His blood as the fulfillment of the Old Testament foreshadowings that heralded our Savior's person and work.  God would be known where and as we are, in this and every moment, as opposed to our waiting until we find ourselves in a certain place, performing a rite that may actually distract us from the blessed reality of the Christ known in the now.  "
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Galatians 4:9-11).

    I mentioned to Marie and Emmie that several years ago, a gentleman who heads up a large international ministry in our area approached me after hearing me speak on the subject of reality in Christ.  "Glen, you are so right about this, and it especially applies to our work with Muslims.  I tell our people that the sharing of their testimony with followers of Islam should not focus on that time when we first came to know the Lord Jesus, but rather on what He is to us today, and in this moment.  They have nothing of the sort in their religion, and we've found that many will listen when we tell them that the true and living God desires to be personal and present in our actual experience." 

     The gentleman was doubtless on target concerning Muslims, but this truth actually provides the basis of ministry to every person with whom we seek to communicate the Lord Jesus.  The Christ we share is present in our relating to others.  We serve, as did John the Baptist, as "the voice of One crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23).  Moreover, the God of Scripture privileges us to tell the citizens of that wilderness that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit desire to "come... and make Our abode" with all who will trust in the Lord Jesus (John 14:23).  Ritual?  Why would we ever settle for such minimalism when God rather offers to us the transcendent glory of His ever present spiritual substance?  Thank you, Marie and Emmie, for a blessed reminder from hearts so dear to me.  And thank You, Heavenly Father, for the dear heart of Christ Jesus, as known and apprehended in the reality of now.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."
(Hebrews 10:1)
The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth."
(Psalm 145:18)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"The Goodness Unknown"

     While we know many of the blessings God has bestowed upon us, I suspect that most of His provisions, protections, and bestowals of grace occur behind the scenes and under the surface, as it were.

Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to usward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (Psalm 40:5).

    During my walk this morning, the thought occurred, thus providing opportunity to offer gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His undetected outpourings of love.  The God who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" immerses Him completely in both ourselves and our experience when we enter into relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:11).  Indeed, we are as fish that swim in the ocean that is God - "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  His working, however involves so many facets and nuances of applied wisdom, grace, mercy, and loving action on our behalf that we cannot begin to apprehend them all.  So, we give thanks for the goodness known, and for the goodness unknown.

    Perhaps in Heaven, the Lord may allow us to look back on His marvelous and hidden doings during our earthly sojourn.  If so, we will be thrilled and amazed by the profundity and magnitude of His frequently quiet and unassuming way in our lives.  Even more, we will thrilled and amazed by the character of the God who parts seas when necessary, but who most often works without fanfare, pomp, and circumstance.  Just as He did in the life of His Son...

He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."
(Isaiah 53:2)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Do I Really Matter?"

(The lyrics of one of our songs.) 

    The lonely man wonders, Is there anybody out there
who really gives a care,
that I cry myself to sleep each night,
and very soon I'll give up this fight.
Oh do I really matter,
do I really matter?

The pretty girl wonders, Is there more to me than just this face
shining in the mirror?
And when beauty fades into memory,
will I still, will I still be me?
Oh do I really matter,
do I really matter?

The guilty one wonders, Is there any way to purge
these bloody hands of mine?
Or am I damned for eternity,
will no one rise to make my plea?
Oh do I really matter,
do I really matter?

An answer comes...

As a moonbeam piercing through the endless night,
the silver voice of the risen Christ 
shines pure and bright...
Yes, you really matter,
Oh yes, you really matter.
Yes, you really matter...
to Me.
"The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy."
(Psalm 145:8)
"The very hairs of your head are all numbered."
(Matthew 10:30)

Friday, July 5, 2013

"A Beautiful Concert"

  I attended a beautiful Independence Day concert last night, performed by our eldest daughter Marie.      

The concert took place in our living room, where Marie retreated after the day's activities.  For more than an hour, she played hymns on our piano, as I listened while sitting in our den (she didn't know I enjoyed her performance).  Marie is an extremely gifted musician, plays numerous instruments, and sings beautifully.  

I have no doubt she could be a concert pianist if the Lord had chosen that path for her life, and I still won't be surprised if down the road, He takes her in that or some other musical direction.   

As Marie played, I was reminded that during her college and law school days, she often relaxed by going to the music department at the University of Alabama, where she did the same thing as she did last night.  As her father, it blesses me beyond measure to think of my daughter filling a piano studio of a secular university with the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of the ancient and enduring hymnody so obviously given to the church by God.  Indeed, in a day when even "Christian" music often seems devoted more to stimulating human emotions than exalting Divine glory, we do well to give thanks for the old hymns.  I'm grateful that Marie does, and I also give thanks that her "concerts" now often grace our living room.   

When pondering music, born again believers must rejoice in the truth that God created this beautiful gift, and that He is Himself musical.  "He will joy over thee with singing" (Zephaniah3:17).  However, we also do well to remember that our enemy Satan was created by God with musical instrumentation apparently woven into his very being.  "The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created" (Ezekiel 28:13).  Little wonder then that the same beautiful creation of the Lord can also serve as such a destructive and deceiving influence when exercised by a cunning devil who distorted the gift intended to be used as a vehicle of praise to God.  Indeed, the first thing and the main thing to remember about music is that it exists not for our enjoyment, but for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Certainly, this does not preclude the pleasure we find in so sublime a Divine creation, but it does means that we must establish in our hearts the proper priority and purpose in both listening and performing.  "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).   

I wish you could have attended the concert with me last night.  However, I also find joy in being blessed with so private a performance that even the musician didn't know I was listening.  Most of all, I rejoice in Marie's selection of music, and in her love for the Lord that motivates it.  I have no doubt, in fact, that Marie's primary Audience and Father rejoiced that His daughter played for Him last night.  Yes, I am sure that He was even more blessed than was her human dad.

"Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power. Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD" (Psalm 150:1-6)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Confirm. Defend. Grow."

     A daily prayer I offer for fellow believers and for myself is that our Heavenly Father will confirm, defend, and enhance our knowledge of Him and our understanding of His truth.

    First, we need ongoing confirmation and affirmation from the Lord that our experience of Him is genuine.  The Apostle Paul warned of "another Jesus... another spirit... another gospel" (II Corinthians 11:4).  Are we knowing the living and true God of the Bible?  Wherein we are, we require ongoing assurance that we are indeed adhering to that "faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).  The Lord will lead us to His Word, His Spirit, and the fellowship of His children to confirm our walk in truth as we pray for each other accordingly.

    We also need defense of our beliefs about God and His truth.  In a world of devilish and fleshly influence, believers face ongoing challenge to "continue in the faith grounded and settled" (Colossians 1:23).  Satan and his minions seek to discourage our confidence in the Lord Jesus, pointing to our own lives and the lives of others wherein it is often difficult to know and understand what God is doing.  "Hath God said?"  The devil long ago prodded Eve with the temptation to uncertainty (Genesis 3:1).  He tempts us no less, and we do well to pray for the guarding of our trust and confidence in the Lord.

    Finally, we all need to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  None of us yet know anything as we ought to know, according to the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 8:2).  Moreover, the depths of an infinite God can never be fully plumbed.  Thus, we pray for each other that wherever we may be along the path of righteousness, the setting sun of this day will find us further down God's blessed way of love, truth, holiness and the wonder of the Lord Jesus.  Yes, confirmation, defense, and enhancement of our walk with the Lord is required.  As is corresponding prayer for each other, and for ourselves.

Our Lord Jesus Christ... shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(I Corinthians 1:7-8)
The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."
(II Thessalonians 3:3)
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment."
(Philippians 1:9)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


We'll call her Wanda.    

Wanda works at a local retail establishment we frequent.  She's recently served us on several occasions, always with a cool and bordering on unfriendly reserve as we begin our transactions.  My initial reaction is to be cool in response, but over the years I've learned that this is not the Lord's way in our lives.   

"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).     

As born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not given the option of relating to people as they relate to us.  We rather relate to them as God relates to us.  We seek to bestow the love, grace, and mercy we have received upon all, regardless of their attitude, demeanor, words and actions toward us.  I've remembered this truth both blessed and challenging when relating to Wanda, and the Lord has enabled me to be warm and friendly toward her despite her reserve.  Wonderfully, this has led on every occasion to Wanda opening up, smiling, and by the end of our transaction, we carry on as if we had known each other for years, as friends.   

This is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace.  During our times with Wanda, He has appeared on the scene, first in my heart and mind, and then in tangible display between Wanda and myself.  Indeed, left to myself, nothing would have happened of any worth and value, and more importantly, of any expression of the love of God.  Thankfully, our Lord does not leave us to ourselves, but rather intimately and dynamically involves Himself along the everyday pathways of life.  I wonder if perhaps Wanda has needs and difficulties in her life that causes her initial coolness when we encounter her.  Or  perhaps she is simply shy.  I don't know, but God does, and He graces me with the privilege and responsibility of giving to Wanda as I have received from Him.   

I have seen this happen so many times that while I am still tempted when I meet someone withdrawn and perhaps even surly, I'm learning to see the opportunity,God's opportunity, that presents itself in such episodes.  Again, we never know what's going on in people's lives.  But we do know the Lord who cares about them so dearly, and who sends us as His emissaries of love to needy hearts.  What a privilege, and what a blessing when we see a stern face soften, eyes look up and brighten, and a heart open to the relationship that happens when the Prince of peace graces us with the remembrance of how kind He has been to us, and of how kind He privileges us to be toward all.

"The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men." (II Timothy 2:24)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"From Me"

"This thing is from Me." (I Kings 12:24)                  

God cannot sin.  He cannot be tempted to sin.  Nor does He tempt anyone else to sin.          

"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).     

Of all Biblical truths, none more demand our full belief and affirmation than than this doctrine of our Lord's unimpeachable and impeccable character.  "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel22:30).  A shroud of thick spiritual and moral darkness envelops our hearts if we succumb in principle or in practice to the Satanic notion that God motivates or encourages wickedness or unrighteousness.  "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness" (Psalm 11:7).   

In the mystery of His eternal purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, our Heavenly Father is wise enough, involved enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to weave wickedness He did not determine into His working in the lives of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  The cross of our Savior shines forth with the brightest light in this matter.   

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).    

Which was it?  God's "determinate counsel and foreknowledge?"  Or man's "wicked hands?"  The answer is both.  Full comprehension of such enigma is not possible for our finite minds.  We only know that our Heavenly Father foreordained the suffering redemption effected by His Son without forcing the wicked hands that pierced our Savior's innocent hands.  I refuse to waste time and mental energy in trying to figure this out.  However, I try to spend much consideration in realizing and embracing this wondrous truth that illuminates the trusting heart, namely, that God transforms the most wicked sin of history, the cross, into the most blessed reality - salvation - in the hearts of those who believe.  I then seek to apply the principle to everything in life.  Yes, if the worst thing became for us the best thing, then all other difficulties and challenges pale in comparison.   

"This thing is from Me."  By the time life gets to us, God has woven His ultimate purposes into the good, the bad, and the mundane.  As Joseph declared of his brothers' sin against him, "Ye thought evil against me.  But God meant it unto good" (Genesis 50:20).  Yes, our Father determines those things that conform to His perfectly righteous way.  He allows those things that conflict with His perfection in full confidence that He can coordinate all into His loving purposes.  I don't expect to understand how He does this, either in this life or the next.  I do, however, expect that each day will offer opportunity to remember and affirm the blessed truth of "This thing is from Me," either according to perfect determination, or coordinated allowance.   A God perfect in character and way must also be known as the God infinite in understanding and unthwartable in purpose.  "This thing is from Me" declares the Lord by His Word and His Spirit.  May the peace of such truth grace our hearts as the light of the cross illuminates every "This thing" in our lives.

"God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." (Ephesians 1:3; 11)