Friday, February 28, 2014

"The Son, the Scriptures, the Spirit"

      Only the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly represents and reveals the person of God to us.  "No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18).

     Moreover, only the Bible perfectly presents the Lord Jesus to us.  "Search the Scriptures... for they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

     Finally, only the Holy Spirit perfectly interprets and explains the Bible's revelation of God in Christ.  "When the Comforter is come... the Spirit of truth, He shall testify of Me... The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (John 15:26; I Corinthians 2:11).

    Recognizing that spiritual enemies exist - "many deceivers are entered into the world" - means that we must go directly to the Sources of Divine truth if we are to genuinely know and respond to the living and true God (II John 1:7).  Others may and do help us in our understanding, but only the Son of God, the Scriptures of God, and the Spirit of God reveal the character, nature, and way of God in perfect purity.  Thus, we must "try the spirits, whether they are of God" (I John 4:1).  Our enemies are more than willing to use the name "Jesus" as a tool of deception.  Satan's purveyors of darkness teach and preach from Scripture more than any other source (as in the Lord's own wilderness temptation).  Spiritual illumination and experience may originate in unholy influence, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.  In days of exponentially expanded communication of ideas and images, we have no choice but to remember that we will inevitably be deceived if we fail to realize that somebody is always attempting to deceive us.

    Again, the Son of God, the Scriptures of God, and the Spirit of God - only in these holy beacons of light can we find our way to God as He is.  Moreover, only thereby can we avoid the deadly worship of God as He is not.  May our Lord lead us to Himself by the gifts He has given to ensure our walk in Truth.  And may we avail ourselves of those gifts, while at the same time turning away from influences of which the Apostle Paul warned in no uncertain terms...

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him."
(II Corinthians 11:3-4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:7-8)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Sacrifice - and Song?"

      Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ involves the sacrifice and the satisfaction of delayed gratification.  The Apostle Paul referenced both sensibilities in his prayer for the Colossian believers, for whom he made request that God would strengthen "unto all patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11).

    We must make accommodation in our hearts and minds for this frequently declared Biblical truth.  First, we trust that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Roman 8:18).  Biblical delayed gratification, while involving discipline, begins and is empowered by God's grace, as known by faith.  As Paul wrote, "joyfulness" accompanies the present moment's sacrifice, if it results from the Holy Spirit's working within us His "patience and longsuffering."  In his description of the fruit of Spirit, the Apostle references both joy and temperance, or self control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Thus, a grudging, "grit your teeth" life of self sacrifice bears no resemblance to the path of righteousness whereupon the born again believer makes his way in a challenging world.  We rather experience spiritual gratification - joy - even as we delay other forms of gratification - temperance.

    Again, we must believe in the Christ-enabled possibility of "patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness."  Very real sacrifices in this and in every day await us as we walk with God.  The Bible calls us to view our voluntary foregoing of present pleasures in the confidence of another and greater present pleasure.  Can our Heavenly Father fill and fulfill our hearts even as we travel to Mt. Moriah for the offering of our particular Isaac?  Do we know Him well enough to consistently answer in the affirmative?  If so, let us seek to know Him even better for the purpose of more honoring Him along the path that offers both joy and sacrifice.  If not, we must confess our sin of failure to seek the Lord well enough so that the knowledge of God fills our hearts with the confidence that delighted gratitude accompanies delayed gratification.

    Paul and Silas lost everything in Phillipi for the glory of the Lord Jesus.  They sacrificed the flesh of their backs, their personal freedom, and seemingly, their very ministry.  Nevertheless, "at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25).  The praying, of course, seems understandable.  But the singing?  How did battered, bound, and imprisoned men find within themselves melody and verse in such a place and such a condition?  We know the answer.  The Lord Jesus for whom they sacrificed met them in their sacrifice.  "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2).  Delayed gratification?  Certainly, in a life such as this present sojourn through a fallen world.  But gratification nonetheless - "I will be with thee."  Indeed, the Lord who dwells always with His trusting children promises to be even more with us in our challenges - "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  This we must expect, first, because it is true, and then, because such confidence empowers us to make our Spirit-led sacrifices with prayers, and even with song.

"That day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy."
(Nehemiah 12:43)
"Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord."
(Psalm 4:5)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Sparrow's Joy"

      After the time of refreshments during our fellowship this past Sunday evening, our beagle Sparrow discovered that half a lemon cake had been left in a fortuitous and accessible place.  As we began our time of prayer, I heard the crinkling of aluminum foil in our dining room.  I knew immediately the origin of the sound, excused myself, and headed for the scene of the crime.  Upon entering the dining room, I witnessed a beagle tail wagging at the speed of hummingbird wings, and Sparrow's entire head buried under the aluminum foil that had previously covered the cake.  "Dogs do go to Heaven!" Sparrow joyfully concluded as she took advantage of her good fortune.  The sight presented such an image of joy that I almost hated to separate said beagle and said cake.

    "God... giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17).

    The Lord could have made His universe without the potential for joy and enjoyment.  He could have made His creatures without the emotional and physical capacities for gladness that make life more than merely a matter of survival.  Or perhaps He couldn't have.  Certainly He couldn't have!  No, God must act always in accordance with His nature, character, and way.  Thus, He made lemons, flour, sugar, eggs, and butter with flavor (especially when skillfully combined!), and He made beagles with the taste buds to savor and enjoy the good gifts of their Maker.  Even more, He made human beings in His nature for the sublime purpose of a greater joy, and a deeper and truer enjoyment.

    "I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:18).

   What does it say about a Creator who desires His creatures to feel joy?  Everything.  It says everything.  And, it says it so beautifully and powerfully that eternity will not suffice in our discovery of the goodness of God.  To enjoy a gift, in whatever form, opens a door into the heart of the Giver.  It allows us to enjoy Him.  This is why Scripture commands that we give thanks for our meals (I Timothy 4:3).  In so doing, we experience not simply the flavor of food, but rather we "taste and see that that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34:8).  God made us for Himself and for the mutual joy of a living bond and relationship through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, only in Him do we find the true joy of our joys.  "In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

     When we acknowledge and give thanks for our Lord's gifts, we partake not only of the blessing, but of Him.  Our presently limited spiritual awareness may not allow us to fully comprehend or sense the reality of such grace, but we partake nevertheless.  "Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger" (John 6:35).  Sparrow's joy this past Sunday evening reminded me of God's loving intention that His creatures experience the gladness of both gift and Giver.  Let us partake of such Truth, allowing it to permeate heart and mind with the Light that says much, that says everything about who our Lord is.

"Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.  Sing praises unto the Lord, for it is pleasant."
(Psalm 135:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
    For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:7-8)


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"No Place In the Hall"

      Jerry Kramer is considered by many of his peers and other observers to be the greatest offensive lineman the game of football ever produced.  Under Coach Vince Lombardi, Kramer played on five National Football League championship teams.  In the 1962 title game, he booted three field goals (he was also a kicker) to lead the Packers in scoring, and in the 1967 championship (known as "The Ice Bowl), he executed the most famous block in the the history of the NFL, clearing the way for quarterback Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game.  He served as the linchpin for the dreaded "Packer Sweep," and clips abound on the Internet of countless blocks he performed in leading Green Bay's running backs to touchdowns and glory. 

    Kramer, however, is not a member of the pro football Hall of Fame.  Nobody knows why.  Far lesser offensive lineman, with far less impressive records, occupy places in the Hall (fifty members of the Hall recently signed a petition to affirm that Kramer should join them).  His rightful place there, however, remains unoccupied.  Some believe that only his passing will awaken those who nominate and vote to realize and correct the omission.  For his part, Kramer harbors no bitterness.  "I'm very, very fortunate to have been a part of that team, under that coach, during that slice of time" he says. 

    "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to His disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat... do not ye after their works... all their works they do for to be seen of men" (Matthew 23:1; 3; 5).

   We live in days wherein Christendom offers fame and fortune to those with special gifts, and in many cases, to those who aggressively seek to be known and rewarded.  It is very difficult, impossible actually, to justify this in Biblical terms.  The Lord Jesus Christ who founded our faith lived 90% of His life in obscurity.  The short time in which His presence became public ultimately led to rejection and death on a cross viewed in terms of shame.  Moreover, His apostles suffered similar fates, including the most important of all, the Apostle Paul, who wrote, "I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death... we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (I Corinthians 4:9-13).  Thus, our Lord and His primary communicators paved a path for us far more likely to lead to approbation than acclamation.

    Such consideration always reminds me of the dew that served to feed Israel.  You read correctly, the dew.  "And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna" (Exodus 16:14-15).  We remember, rightly, the manna.  Without the dew, however, Israel would have remained unfed.  No place in the Hall of Fame exists for this oft forgotten servant of God and of Israel, nor is one desired.  A bright light thus shines forth from the dew, even as it purposefully directs all glory and illumination to the sustenance it provided...

"Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory!"
(Psalm 115:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
    For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:7-8)