Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"The Message You'll Never Read"

     I sat down and wrote a message yesterday that, upon reflection, I realized to be little more than a rant.  Thus, I have chosen not to foist upon you that which fails to meet the test of Biblical communication and ministry.

    "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).

    Let me say that I believe the thoughts I expressed in the essay to be true, and I'm confident of my analysis and interpretation.  Moreover, I believe that Christians must express the bad along with the good if we are to faithfully declare the truth.  The Bible does not fail to expose and warn, and we do ourselves and each other no favors by ignoring the present darkness in which we live as "the children of light" (I Thessalonians 5:5).  The Apostle Paul declared his ministry to involve "warning every man" in the clear determination of love that lets people know when the path ahead leads to danger and destruction (Colossians 1:28).

    The problem involved attitude and intention.  Again, upon reflection I realize that I climbed upon a soapbox for the purpose of expressing personal distaste and even disgust rather than seeking to edify.  I can assure you that no grace would have been ministered by the words I wrote, but rather a grating snarl with which I suspect you'd agree, but which would have dragged you down into the gully into which I descended for awhile.  I wrote angry, as it were, which violates the corollary rule by which I seek to minister, namely, that I attempt never to "preach angry."  I've never found that to accomplish anything more than a personal catharsis and venting that may cause me to feel better, but which provides little benefit to hearers.  Again, there's certainly much in this present world that elicits a proper and righteous indignation.  Preaching, teaching, and writing from such an emotional sensibility, however, rarely ministers the genuine grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

   So, you won't have to read about the sad fact that they've changed the chocolate on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!!!!  :):)   Actually, that's not the issue I addressed in the message you'll never read.  No, I simply write to confess a wayward path I traveled for awhile yesterday, a detour upon which I almost invited you to journey with me.  I might also suggest that Paul's admonition to "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" provides a vital warning sign to erect in our hearts and minds regarding the sharing of our perspectives.  I barged through the barrier myself in a rant rather than a ministering of grace.  I'm glad the Lord kept me from taking you along.

"Grievous words stir up anger."
(Proverbs 15:1)
"Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
(II Timothy 1:15)


Monday, December 30, 2013


     Twelve thousand, seven hundred and eighty four days since December 30, 1978.  That translates into thirty five years, and for Frances and me, our 35th wedding anniversary.

     First, I must resist the urge to use this forum to gush about her.  I don't begin to have the space for an adequate expression of appreciation, and I'll be in trouble with Frances if I journey too far down that blessed path.  So, I'll just be succinct and to the point before pressing on: God graced me to marry the best and finest person I have ever known, or ever will know (and I know a lot of great people, including you folks!).  That, of course, is a wondrous thing to be able to say in sincerity, and I assure you that I could express no sentiment that I more genuinely mean.  "Whoso findeth a wife, findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22).  Solomon was right.  Boy, was he right!  As I often suggest to young men when counseling them before marriage, "Never stop realizing that she is God's gift to you.  Because she is."

    I'm stunned today by the sheer fact of thirty five years having passed since our wedding day.  I've actually pondered the matter for several days, and the thought occurred to me last night that our perception of time often seems strange and skewed because in a very real sense, the clock exists as a measure of something we almost universally misunderstand. 

    "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

    God created human beings for the eternal and the spiritual to serve as the heart of our existence.  Our physical faculties and members were formed to serve as the expression of God's everlasting and unseen glory.  Time would exist for Adam and Eve - "The evening and the morning were the sixth day" (Genesis 1:31).   It would serve humanity,  however, rather than dominate it, as took place when our forefathers sinned - "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 1:31).  We misconstrue time because sin distorted humanity's relationship to both the eternal and the temporal.  Thus, thirty five years can seem as a blip, while a few minutes may often feel like an eternity.  Indeed, time seems to use us rather than our using it.

     The saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ initiates deliverance of born again believers from the temporal as our master.  We still operate according to clock-based schedules, seeking to show up for our responsibilities on time as the fruit of God's working in our lives.  We do not, however, fear the passing of moments, or the aging process, or even the end of our presently temporal existence on the earth.  We rather rejoice in the glories of forever, of Christ's forever that awaits us as our own eternal estate through grace.  We've begun the reorientation and repositioning of things, viewing eternity as the essence, and time as a tool of expression.  Thirty five years?  I don't understand it.  I can, however, rejoice in it with much thanksgiving, and consider its glories as the basis for expecting the Lord to be no less present in the days and the eternity to come.

    "There are great days ahead."  Frances and I long ago adopted this anticipation, based on a book we love.  Even more, however, the Book calls us to the perpetual hope of grace.  "My expectation is from Him" declared David (Psalm 62:5).  The king was not disappointed, nor shall we be as the passage of time heralds the presence of eternity already in our midst, and awaiting us in a forever that promises an "everlasting kingdom," known in the peace of "everlasting Arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 145:13).

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
(John 3:16).

Weekly Memory Verse   
    From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.
(Psalm 90:2)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"A Christmas Serendipity"

     A meeting descended on us seemingly out of the blue on Christmas Eve, one that blessed us with the sense of God's presence and involvement more than words can express.

    We normally conduct two services on Tuesdays at a local retirement and nursing facility.  This week, because of the holiday and short staffing, we expected the second meeting to be cancelled.  We planned to make personal visits to the residents in lieu of the service, and had begun to do so.  One of the residents, however, had other plans.  Mrs. Patricia informed us that she would gather people for a meeting, to convene in the cafeteria.  She informed the few staffers present, and began to traverse the halls on her walker to make things happen (please allow that image to burn itself deep into your mind and heart).  Mrs. Patricia succeeded, and we discovered with much surprise and delight a gathering of residents awaiting us in the cafeteria.  We began the service, and more and more people joined us as we sang Christmas carols and shared the Lord together.

    The late afternoon sun glimmered beautifully through the windows of the cafeteria, and even more, smiles and expressions of gladness illuminated the faces of the residents.  I'm not sure if we actually sang "Joy To the World" during the meeting, but I'm sure that we all felt as if such wonder had blessedly come to our particular portion of the planet!  We hope, of course, that all our meetings at the facility result from our Heavenly Father's plans and purposes.  Of Tuesday's Christmas Eve assembly, I'm sure all who attended will attest that He convened and met with us in a wondrous way.

   I will never forget the meeting, the way it looked, the way it sounded, the way it felt, the way it was.  So here's to Mrs. Patricia, and to the Lord who moved upon her heart, and by her halting steps.  A Christmas serendipity graced us on the Eve, and its blessedness lingers in the heart, and in the thankful prayers of those who were there.

"I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord!"
(Psalm 122:1)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Friday, December 27, 2013

"A Life That Matters" Part 2

     Frances and I recently watched a documentary about a late entertainer who tickled the ribs of millions, while becoming extremely wealthy, powerful, and influential.  He pretty much died as a hermit on his yacht, however, reflecting a lifetime in which he never learned to relate to people on a personal level.  He frequently admitted as much, stating that he loved the stage because he could be to crowds that which he could not be to individuals.

    The man's relational issues originated in his admitted disbelief in a personal God.  Failure to relate to our Maker always results in the inward insecurities and/or pride that erects walls between ourselves and other human beings.  "This commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (I John 4:21).  Love for God and love for people are branches of the same blessed Tree, namely, the cross of Calvary.  The Lord Jesus Christ died thereupon to establish terms of loving peace between God and ourselves, which leads to the fruit of loving peace between people and ourselves (that is, to those who respond to the Divine/human overtures of love manifested through Christ-inhabited believers).  He subsequently rose from the dead in order to return to Heaven for the purpose of sending the Holy Spirit to indwell our hearts.  Thereby, we increasingly discover the love of God for us, and respond in kind. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).   This changes us into the image of Christ, and thus into lovers of people as the direct expression of our love for God.

    Just as Adam and Eve hid from God in the trees after their sin, and from each other by the leaves of a tree, the aforementioned entertainer hid from people throughout much of his lifetime as the direct expression of hiding from God (Genesis 3:7-8).  Tragic was the result in both this life and the next for a man still revered by many who fail to see the sadness of a lost lifetime and eternity.  He did not live a life that matters.  Indeed, his failure to know and love God and people means that he never truly lived at all.  Stark and direct is the message to our hearts communicated by the tragedy.  "To live is Christ" declared the Apostle Paul" (Philippians 1:21).   To love our Heavenly Father and people as did our Lord, as enabled by the presence of His indwelling Spirit, means that we are are truly alive and living in a manner that matters (Philippians 1:21).  Nothing else qualifies, and we require nothing else.  Yes, to be loved by God and to know it, and to love Him in response and to show it (by loving people), this is life, and there is no other.

"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."
(John 17:3)
" If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit."
(I John 4:12-13)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"A Life That Matters"

     What will matter as we cross over from this life into the next?  The answer might seem complicated, but it's really not.

    "And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:28:-31).

   We exist to be loved by God, to love Him, and to love people as the fruit of such reception and response.  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ births the possibility of fulfilling this reason for being as His Spirit indwells us for the purpose of enabling us.  "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  This establishes the possibility of living a truly meaningful and significant life that impacts both the present and eternity.  As the saying so beautifully expresses, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past.  Only what's done for Christ will last."  We might also say, "Only what's done through Christ will last."  Indeed, the presence of the Spirit of Christ provides a life that is truly a life, as defined by the God of whom Scripture declares, "He is thy life" (Deuteronomy 30:20). 

    To the degree we devote ourselves to the love of God received from Him, returned to Him, and expressed through Him to others comprises our experience of a life that truly matters.  We will take nothing else with us when we enter into eternity because nothing else of our present life would comfortably fit in Heavenly places.  We were made for such love, and such love makes us.  Or, in terms of this consideration, it makes us matter.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
(I Corinthians 13:1-3)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"The Carols"

     Imagine a life without music, devoid of melody, harmony, lyric, rhythm, tempo, and the beauty of song and singing.  Moreover, imagine Christmas without the carols that so beautifully sing to and of of the Baby born in a manger, who became the Man hanging upon the cross, who now sits upon the throne of creation as the risen King of kings and Lord of lords.

    Such contemplation offers a very dark and sorrowful imagining, which we can gratefully and quickly dismiss.  The musical God - "He will rejoice over thee with singing" - made music.  Or perhaps music has always been, eternally existing within our Lord's heart, even as His Spirit's presence elicits "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:17; Ephesians 5:19).  I suspect the latter is the case, which makes music all the more wondrous, while also revealing the reason for its capacity to touch us in the spiritual depths of our being.  I ponder this especially at this time of year, when the aforementioned carols sublimely grace our ears, and our hearts.

    "O come let us adore Him... the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head... sleep in Heavenly peace... it came upon a midnight clear... joy to the world, the Lord is come... peace on earth, and mercy mild... Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel... this, this is Christ the king... o come, o come Emmanuel" - on and on we could recount the musical glories that 2,000 years after His birth still echo the welcome, "Yea, Lord, we greet Thee."  The carols "sweetly sing o'er the plains," and without their glorious strains, the joyous remembrance that accompanies the birth of the Lord Jesus would lose much of its beauty, wonder, and glory.  Doubtless, God made it to be so, meaning that the music of Christmas likely touches His heart even more than our own.

    The carols of Christmas, whether heard by our ears or sung by our hearts and tongues, sound with the eternally ancient glory of God that became "God... manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  They beautifully escort us back to Bethlehem, and then from Bethlehem to the "wonders of His love," as revealed in our Savior's earthly life, being, and doing.  We cannot imagine the season without them, nor should we.  Indeed, human hearts, minds, and talents penned the carols, and the same sing, play, and rejoice in them.  However, we will likely discover some day a Heavenly source and origin of the joyous anthems that sounded and resounded in the heart of God long before writers wrote, musicians played, singers sang, and the celebrants of Christmas rejoiced with "good tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10). 

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD."
(Zechariah 2:10)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Dear Orange Moon Friends

Friends, Christmas greetings, and a gift for you...

"The Chemistry of the Spirit"

     I am not a chemist, and in fact, did not do well in the subject during my school days.  I do, however, love the chemistry involved in baking and candy making.  It thrills me as I measure, combine, stir, and bake (if necessary) to know that things are happening at the molecular level invisible to the eye, and knowable only by the end product of fudge (a batch just made), cookies, caramels, cakes, breads, and pies (and yes, if you insist, I will include my fudge recipe at the end of this essay!  You will want to make this, barring blood sugar issues, and give the glory to God as your eyes roll back in your head upon first bite).

    We often suggest in these essays that with God, there is always more to the picture than meets the eye.  Creation teems with the dynamic involvement of His heart and hand - "God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:2; 11).  We see relatively little of the Divine activity, even as the Apostle John wrote concerning the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ, "
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).  As with the myriad molecules that dance, repel, and unite in the process of producing culinary delights, so the living God works in all things to reveal the sweetness and sustenance of the Lord Jesus in those who trust Him.  "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

    We often do not know what God is doing.  We only know that He is doing.  Indeed, the great Chemist, as it were, somehow formulates the components of a creation vast beyond our comprehension and measure into a singular, sublime purpose of "gathering together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  The glory of the Lord Jesus shining forth from within and upon all things -  the chemistry of the Spirit will ultimately result in an infinitely myriad number of components perfectly united to provide the Savior as the Bread of life for all things...

"O taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him."
(Psalm 34:8)

Old Fashioned Fudge (the only kind you really want, as opposed to the  modern versions that, if you ask me, provide overwrought slickness and sweetness for what they lack in proper texture and flavor).

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup milk (at least 2%, whole is best)
4 and 1/4 tablespoons real butter (don't put margarine in my fudge recipe!)
1 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Fudge is chemistry.  This means the formation of sugar crystals, which involves gentle stirring so as to not draw down crystalized molecules into the mixture as it cooks.  In simple language, try not to slop the mixture up the side of the pan as you stir.  Gentle does the trick, at first... 

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring continually until the mixture boils and is smooth.  At that point, reduce heat and attach a good candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Allow fudge to reach 238 degrees without stirring.  Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, and then beat forcefully with a sturdy wooden spoon until the fudge thickens and looses its sheen.  This will take 10-15 minutes, and it will make your forearm hurt.  You will not regret the pain, however, I assure you!

Add fudge to a 8x8 square pan, preferably lined with buttered parchment paper (you can just butter the pan itself).  Allow to cool several hours.  Clean bowl in which fudge was prepared with spoon and tongue.  Cut fudge into bite size pieces.  Give thanks to the Lord, partake, share with others, and think good thoughts about yours truly...

Merry Christmas, my brothers and sisters.  I cannot imagine life without you. Or without fudge!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"The Wonder of the Wonderful"

     I received a note yesterday from a dear friend who wished our family "a wondrous Christmas."

    "His name shall be called Wonderful" (Isaiah 9:6).

    My friend's blessing speaks beautifully of a primary sensibility that should fill our hearts concerning the season, or more to the point, the Subject of the season.  We do well to still ourselves in the remembrance of our Lord's transcendent and overwhelming glory, as revealed in the wonder of His becoming, for our sakes, "meek and lowly" (Matthew 11:29).  Only the God of Scripture, the true and living God, would have devised such a purpose regarding our redemption.  If we were unfamiliar with the Christmas story, the notion of an infinite Deity entering a finite and fallen world for the purpose of sacrificing Himself for enemies would fill us with fascination.  "How could such a thing be?!" we would wonder, and "wonder" would indeed comprise the proper response.

    They say that familiarity breeds contempt.  This may sometimes be true.  However, familiarity also frequently fosters complacency.  We must not allow the glory and story of Christmas to fall victim to this tendency.  Amid the trappings of the season, we must still ourselves to allow the wonder of the Wonderful to fill our hearts with joy, our minds with fascination, and our lives with the realized joy of Christ's living presence.  Indeed, the manger of Bethlehem doubtless long ago crumbled into dust.  The manger of our trusting hearts, however, finds the Spirit of the Lord Jesus present and wonderful.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Do we know this to be true?  Does such a sensibility frequently fill and fulfill our hearts?  Does a voice from somewhere deep within us call out, "Wonderful!?"  If not, a determined remembrance of Christmas, and of it's Christ, provides opportunity to escape complacency.  We must.  We must!  An open Bible, a prayerful heart, and the conviction that Lord Jesus offers the most fascinating path of pondering our hearts can travel will free us for the journey into "a wondrous Christmas."

"Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods?  Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
(Exodus 15:11)
"Remember His marvelous works that He hath done, His wonders."
(I Chronicles 16:12).

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Heart First"

     The Bible begins, significantly, with a declarative rather than an explanatory statement of truth.

    "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

     More than 31,000 verses follow Genesis 1:1, many of which do a great deal of explaining.  Verse 1, of chapter 1, of Book 1, however, simply proclaims a truth to be accepted and believed.  This tells us much about God, ourselves, and the life to which He calls us both presently, and forever.  Indeed, it tells us that He is God, and we are not.

    "Thou art God alone" (Psalm 86:10).

     It is a wonderful thing to live in the reality of God as God.  Such truth places us in the proper position of dependence rather than independence, of trusting in Another rather than self-confidence, and of "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Such grace provides "the light of life" to all who believe (John 8:12).  We cease the banging of our hearts and heads against the walls of God's universe, recognizing the insanity of believing we can successfully control our own destiny.  We cannot - "he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" - and the sooner we bow to the centrality and power of "Thou art God alone," the sooner the peace of Truth will grace our hearts with rest (Proverbs 28:26).

    Such truth begins not with explanation, but with declaration.  Much light shines forth from the first verse of Scripture, wherein the Creator proclaims His masterpiece of Divine creativity, technology, and art.  Our proper initial response presses us to bow our hearts in consecration rather than scratch our heads in curiosity.  Subsequently, the Lord will explain much to us as the proper order of heart first, then head, sets things in order.  Yes, God is God, and we are not.  This "light of life" fills and fulfills our hearts as we are rejoice in the peace of acknowledging the Who and What of our Maker, and the who not and what not of ourselves.

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God."
(Isaiah 44:6)
"Put them in fear, o Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men."
(Psalm 9:20)

Weekly Memory Verse   
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us."
(Matthew 1:23)

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Horrible, Unimaginable"

     At some point when the Lord Jesus Christ died for us on the cross of Calvary, something so completely horrible and unimaginable occurred that the Bible only records the fact.  No explanation is given, nor can be.

    "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

    Note that the Apostle Paul does not reference our Lord's bearing of sin - a fact also - but of being sin.  Somehow, the Lord Jesus became everything He is not for the purpose of experiencing His Father's wrath against wickedness and evil. Torrents of Divine fury thus descended upon the Savior, and raged within His soul.  From the experience of Jonah, the prophetic voice foreshadows a portion of our Lord's agony:

I cried by reason of Mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard Me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest My voice. For Thou hadst cast Me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed Me about: all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over Me. Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight; yet I will look again toward Thy holy temple. The waters compassed Me about, even to the soul: the depth closed Me round about, the weeds were wrapped about My head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about Me forever" (Jonah 2:2-6).

    What would it be like to eternally exist in perfect righteousness, with a pure and passionate love for goodness, but to be transformed into the very essence of unrighteousness?  What horrors would such a contradiction of heart and spirit involve as a Father's love gives way to the wrath of a judge?  We do not and cannot know.  We can only be sure that it happened, and that a long eternity will not suffice to provide understanding of, as the hymnwriter describes, "How deep were the waters crossed... 'ere He found His sheep that was lost." 

    A holy proportion resulted from Calvary.  To the degree the Lord Jesus was made to be sin, God freely imputes His righteousness to those who believe. To the degree He was forsaken, we are "accepted in the Beloved."   To the degree His soul was enveloped by the night, our spirit dwells in the light of God's countenance.  And to the degree our Lord became who and what He was not, we become in Him who and what we were not.  All of such grace flows to us from the River of life made possible by our Savior's experience of the deep, the floods, the billows, and the waves of God's wrath poured out upon Him for our sakes. 

    We cannot know, but we can believe.  Moreover, we can seek to increasingly avail ourselves of the gift purchased for us by the horrible, and the unimaginable.  May our Heavenly Father grant much grace of remembrance, and of accessing the life of Christ made possible by a death of far greater sacrifice, and of far deeper waters than we will never know...

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.  Yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
(Isaiah 53:4)
"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 5:20-21)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness, and Thy paths drop fatness.
(Psalm 65:11)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Can We Take It?"

     I recently heard a well known preacher suggest that "It's fine to be angry with God when He determines or allows painful things in our lives.  He can take it."  The man has recently endured much tragedy in his personal experience, and used the Psalmists' frequent expressions of discontented questioning as anecdotal confirmation that we can cry out against God when life particularly hurts us.

      First, I understand the temptation to question and blame the the Lord's determinations and allowances.  Been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it.  Moreover, I completely agree that "He can take it."  The question, however, is "Can we take it?"  I don't think so.  Recall that the very first temptation of the human race involved Satan's successful attempt to foment discontent in Eve.  "Ye shall not surely die (if you partake of the fruit God has forbidden).  For God doth know in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).  In other words, "Eve, God has withheld something from you and Adam that makes your lives less than they should be.  His way is not perfect, and you cannot trust Him."  Our forefathers succumbed to the devil's lie, of course, leading to their own sin and death, as well as the casting of their progeny into the mastery of Satan's lie.  God remained who and what He was.  He could take it.  But Adam and Eve fell from their lofty purpose and reason for being, namely, to love, trust, and honor their Lord.  They couldn't take it.

    "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  Anger allowed to take root in our hearts against God indicates the failure to understand the perfection of His determinations and allowances.  This is understandable, that we cannot understand. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways not your ways" (Isaiah 55:9).  Our Lord's doings transcend our comprehension by great and inestimable measure.  Thus, it is fine to wonder what He is doing, and why He is doing it.  The Lord Jesus Himself cried in anguish from the cross of Calvary, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).  However, allowing anger and bitterness against God to capture our emotional sensibilities indicates something sinister has been allowed to enter and control us.  Again, discontentment began in human hearts when our original forebears embraced Satanic deception, disastrously for them.  Such darkness continues in the same manner and mode until the present hour. 

    When tempted to be angry with the Lord who so perfectly administers His loving grace in our lives, we do not wrestle with mere human weakness.  The devil and his minions foment such wicked insanity by tempting us to forget that "as for God, His way is perfect."  We cannot take this.  Death ensues, as in Adam and Eve, when we embrace the lie.  For the Christian, this means that we damage ourselves and our fellowship with the Lord in significant ways, beyond our understanding.  Certainly, the Lord can redeem and repair us, as certain of David's Psalms begin with outcries against the Lord, but conclude with faith and affirmation of Divine faithfulness (Psalm 10, for example).  However, we lose time and opportunity to walk in Truth when we distrust our Lord in discontented anger.  Moreover, there is no guarantee that in this life we shall ever extricate ourselves from delusion by availing ourselves of God's grace.  I know people I consider to be genuine believers who have allowed bitterness to have such effect in their hearts that they find it difficult to consistently trust the Lord.  They couldn't take it.

    Again, I fully understand and have experienced the temptation we consider.  It is, however, a temptation.  We must therefore sink ourselves into the Scriptural affirmation of a perfectly faithful Lord who executes His determinations and allowances "for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28).  Much challenge to such faith will confront us at certain times in our lives, challenge that must be overcome by the power of God's presence and abiding truth in our hearts.  Recognizing devilish influence as the origin of discontented anger against our Father will go far in defusing the spiritual bomb our enemies seek to detonate in our hearts.

"I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
(Psalm 18:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse   
    Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness, and Thy paths drop fatness.
(Psalm 65:11)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


     I presently play a Taylor acoustic guitar.  The company, known for its innovation and precise manufacturing protocol and process, produce instruments of consistent tone, playability, and style.  I often say, "I've never played a bad Taylor."  That's the truth, although some, including my own version, seem particularly fine.

    That being said, I suppose I'll always be a Martin man.  The Martin Guitar Company has been around since 1833.  Their version of the dreadnought acoustic guitar established the model for American instruments, and a gathering of musicians playing acoustic will almost always include someone plucking on a Martin.  We still have a Martin in our family, a 25 year old model I purchased not long after I started playing guitar, and which now belongs to my daughter Marie (I passed it down to her about 15 years ago after I purchased a new instrument).  Martins are said to improve with time as the wood ages, and Marie's guitar beautifully confirms the axiom.

    I share this with you as introduction to a moment in my life, shared with my youngest daughter Emmie, wherein God so revealed His loving presence and involvement that He almost - almost - became too obvious for this present life in which He calls His children to "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  When Emmie was little, she and I often watched Mr. Rogers together.  You're likely familiar with the show, and with the man whose soft voice and demeanor, along with a slightly odd affect and demeanor (I don't mean that disrespectfully), graced the airwaves for many years.  The segment of the show I enjoyed the most involved Mr. Rogers visiting manufacturing shops or plants where things are made.  He wanted to show children the fact that for things to exist, someone has to make them (now that's an interesting concept, isn't it?).  Moreover, Mr. Rogers felt that children needed to see the process in order to fully appreciate the creativity, time, and effort that goes into the products we buy and use.

     One day, as the theme music began the show - "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." - a thought occurred to me.  "You know, I wish that they'd do a segment at the Martin company, showing how they make their guitars."  I'd never pondered this before, but on that day, the notion came to mind.  I think I even considered writing Mr. Rogers to suggest the possibility.  Emmie and I settled in to watch the episode, and the thought about the Martin company passed from my mind.  Until, that is, the how it's made segment appeared.  As I recall, one of the characters on the show held and played a guitar as Mr. Rogers approached, which provided the introduction for a visit to Nazareth, Pennsylvania and, you guessed it, the Martin Guitar Company! (the thought occurs to me, for the first time in all these years, that a place called "Nazareth" provided the venue for such a blessing).

    I'll never forget sitting in front of the television in stunned amazement.  Again, until that day, I'd never considered the Martin plant as an interesting venue for the manufacturing segment.  The thought simply occurred to me in the moment, and on the day the episode aired.  "Emmie, you're not going to believe this!"  I attempted to share the event with my daughter, but I'm not sure it impacted her three year old mind.  Indeed, of the literally millions of venues Mr. Rogers could have visited to show how things are made, he ended up at Martin Guitar Company on the very day I imagined it might provide an interesting tour and explanation of its process.  It certainly did, as I beheld a very interesting "tour and explanation" of another process, namely, God's process.

    I don't use the language of "God said this," or "God told me that" in terms of His personal involvement in my life.  Such rhetoric puts us on the dangerous ground of  possibly misrepresenting our Heavenly Father, or of deceiving ourselves into believing that every whim or notion comprises a personal communication from God.  He is, however, very personal with us, and I have no doubt of His involvement on that day long ago when a prospect and possibility in my mind became a presentation before my eyes.  God became obvious.  I'm sure we all have such stories to tell, or better termed, testimonies to share.  They'll be relatively few, of course, because the life of faith demands that we "endure, as seeing Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27).  We'll thus appreciate moments of the obvious all the more, and remember them when our way becomes so dark that we must trust our Lord's heart despite our inability to see or understand His hand.  Certainly, I appreciate and remember that day so long ago, and perhaps even more, I rejoice in the present impact it retains in my heart and determination to affirm the truth we seek always to communicate. Namely, no one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.  Yes, sometimes God becomes obvious.

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness."
(Psalm 112:4)

Weekly Memory Verse   
     Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness.
(Psalm 65:11)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"A Little Lower"

     In order to redeem us (and ultimately, His creation), the Lord Jesus Christ willingly took upon Himself the humanity that involved His becoming lower than the angels He created.

    "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made...
We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (John 1:3; Hebrews 2:9).

    It is one thing that our Lord became like human beings, excepting our sin.  "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).  It is quite another that the Lord Jesus condescended to a lesser degree than the angelic race of beings wherein sin originated.  Lucifer rebelled against God, believing himself to be more than is, or can be.  "I will be like the Most High" he proclaimed, infecting many other angels with his deception (Isaiah 14:14; Revelation 12:4).  Conversely, our Savior humbled Himself, becoming less than He is (without relinquishing His divinity) for the purpose of countering the effects of the devil's rebellion, which include infecting the human race with his nefarious lie.  "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).  Thus, sin began in the universe through "the pride of life" embraced by a created being who sought to be higher (I John 2:16).  It will end when the already accomplished redemption of the Creator, "made a little lower", is fully manifested.

    I know of no more thrilling or sanctifying Biblical consideration.  In Christ, we see a sublime goodness beyond all imagining.  We discover an infinite God possessed of such character that He humbled Himself.  Moreover, such humility remains in the sense that the Apostle Paul refers to the Lord Jesus in the present tense as "the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).  Christ is and always will be human, for our sakes, while retaining His divinity as "God... manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  We see also the wicked nature of Satan, the created being formed to absorb and express God's light (the name "Lucifer" means lightbearer), but who sought to become Light itself.  Again, the Lord Jesus became lower because Satan sought to become higher, and when the smoke of spiritual battle someday fully clears throughout God's creation, the crucified and risen Christ of humility will cast the doomed devil of pride into the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).  We must know the consequences of both paths in order to embrace the life of lowliness, and flee the destruction of vainglory.

    Nothing will drive us to our knees and faces more than consideration that God Himself, in the person of Christ, knelt upon His face and knees (Mark 14:35; John 13:5). 

To save us from our sin, our blessed Lord became a man.
Meek and lowly, in humility,
He lived, suffered and died for you and me….
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, hallelujah.

How can such a wonder be,
Our blessed Lord come to us as a Baby?
Born to one day die on the cross of Calvary…
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, hallelujah.

What kind of Lord must this be
To step down from His throne of glory,
to give Himself to shame and death for you and for me?
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, hallelujah

"Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself."
(Philippians 2:8)

Weekly Memory Verse   
     Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness.
(Psalm 65:11)