Monday, March 31, 2014

"Reception and Responsibility"

        "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.  But much increase is by the strength of the ox" (Proverbs 14:4).

         Blessings and responsibilities go hand in hand.  Solomon speaks to this in his affirmation concerning "the strength of the ox," which comes with the responsibility of time and effort spent in caring for the ox.  The Apostle Paul also referenced this in his epistle to the Romans:

        "Jesus whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith for His name" (Romans 1:5).

      God's freely given favor in Christ - grace - blessed Paul also with a life of privileged obligation and duty - apostleship.  "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise" (Romans 1:14).  We were made for such a realization of responsibility, wherein we understand that the reception of our Lord's good gifts prepares us to be the distributor of them.  "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).  Any other bestowal of grace would leave us in the self-centeredness of sin from which the Lord Jesus came to deliver us.  Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God imparts His love into our hearts when we believe (Romans 5:5).  Thereby, He begins our transformation from being black holes that draw all things into ourselves for personal benefit into the bright and shining stars that bless others with the Light of Christ (Philippians 2:15). 

    The more grace we experience through the Lord Jesus, the more He blesses us with the call to self sacrificially devote ourselves to God and others.  Indeed, we best know our Heavenly Father's love not when it comes to us, as wonderful as that is, but rather when it flows within and through us.  As the Holy Spirit leads us to give, He graces our sacrifice with the message of how much we have been given.  We discover the joy our Lord knows, the joy of otherness that fills our heart to overflow even as we empty it for the glory of God and the blessing of our world.

"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(Acts 20:35)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(Proverbs 28:1)

Friday, March 28, 2014

"The Wonder of Privilege"

"The Wonder of Privilege"

    It's allergy season down South where we live.  This means sneezes, congestion (or runny nose), red eyes, and the feeling of fatigue.  The medications for histamine reactions, while much better than in days of my childhood, often leave me a bit foggy and tired.  Indeed, the blossoms and green of spring come with a price for many folks such as myself.

    This led to a feeling of lethargy yesterday as I drove to a scheduled service.  Normally, the prospect of gathering with fellow believers excites me with a sense of gratitude and anticipation.  As I often tell people who commend us for our various ministries, "Thank you.  I appreciate your encouragement.  And, I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that conducting services is much like eating a piece of really great chocolate cake.  It's the enjoyment of a privilege far more than the fulfillment of a responsibility."  Yesterday, however, it just didn't feel that way.  As I proceeded to my destination, I almost allowed myself to think, for the first time in a long time, "I kind of wish I didn't have to do this tod..."

    I caught myself, or rather, I trust that the Holy Spirit caught me in mid-thought.  The thought of privilege returned to pervade my ponderings.  That the infinite God would grant His children the joy of speaking, singing, or praying a word in His name bestows upon us unimaginable grace and kindness.  That people would gather to listen and participate enhances the blessing in exponential measure.  On better days, I often feel completely overwhelmed by the gift of fellowship with God and His trusting children in Christ He so often gives us to enjoy.  I remembered this, and by the Lord's leading and enabling, I thanked Him for yet another opportunity to know the Lord Jesus with those who share our faith, and perhaps with some who don't.

   I hope the meeting was a blessing for the folks who attended.  It sure was for  me.  I never feel more completely relaxed than when preaching and writing.  I hope this means I am doing what I'm meant to do, and thus experiencing the peace of Christ.  Yesterday, the tranquility meter registered off the dial in my own heart and mind.  Everything just seemed so right.  I cannot fully explain what I mean by that, and again, I hope I was not alone in the perception (the response of the people seemed to confirm that).  And all, after just minutes before feeling hesitant and unwilling.  I suspect the Lord must have been thinking, "Glen, you know you want that chocolate cake!"

    Life completely changes when we realize that the presence and working of the Lord Jesus transforms responsibilities into privileges.  This includes every calling and duty in our lives.  They're all pieces of chocolate cake if they're what our Heavenly Father puts in front of us to do.  This doesn't mean there will not be sacrifices and hardships in our responsibilities, but rather that the joy and peace of Christ will be there far more when we realize and acknowledge Him.  In simple terms, life involves for believers the faith of "I get to" rather than the burden of "I have to."  I'm so glad for the reminder and confirmation yesterday, and for a time when the Lord affirmed yet again the wonder of privilege.

"For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross."
(Hebrews 12:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God.
(Hebrews 7:19)


Thursday, March 27, 2014


    I wrote the song below for Frances several years ago as a tribute to her calling and career as a Labor & Delivery RN, and as an expression of gratitude to the One who called her to such a sublime endeavor.

I've spent my life in a holy place,
how often have I seen the face
of the God who plants life in the womb,
and smiles upon it as it blooms
 into miracles, I've seen miracles.
Miracles, I've seen miracles.

The joys I've known have been rich and sweet,
so many tiny hands and feet.
The times of sorrow, I'll not forget,
or the broken hearts God has comforted
with miracles, I've seen miracles.
Miracles, I've seen miracles.

Most of all, I think of this,
the thought that fills my heart with bliss.
My God Himself became a Babe,
and every birth I 've seen portrays
such a miracle, I've seen miracles.
Miracles, I've seen miracles.

      Frances has assisted doctors in thousands of births, and delivered dozens herself when doctors couldn't make it to the hospital on time.  She'll tell you nevertheless that the birth of every baby still fills her with the awed realization of "the God who plants life in the womb, and smiles upon it as it blooms."  She has indeed spent her life in a holy place wherein she witnesses the entrance of little ones into the world, as called forth by the Giver of "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). 

    Babies bless us for countless reasons so obvious I need not name them.  As the song suggests, however, the main reason they touch our hearts is that the Spirit of God bears witness upon every birth that the Son of God took upon Himself the sublime image of a newborn child.  We may or may not hear the message, but it sounds and resounds nonetheless.  For many years, Frances has heard and has born witness to the blessed truth that "My God Himself became a Babe."  A holy place indeed, as graced by the Holy One present when miracles come forth at His beckoning...

"Thou art He that took me out of the womb."
(Psalm 22:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God.
(Hebrews 7:19)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Let Us Have Christ!"

    Just as problems with sin stem from weakness in grace (as referenced in yesterday's essay, "Let Us Have Grace"), so does failure to appropriate God's grace originate in the need to better know the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 1:14).

     The Lord Jesus serves as the supply for every spiritual dilemma and lack.  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).  Problems with prayer, for example, are actually problems regarding our apprehension of Christ.  Bitterness and unforgiveness result from failure to know and experience our Lord's character, nature, and way.  Attitudinal sins flow from darkness regarding His heart and motivation.  The list goes on, and is all inclusive.  "Let us have grace" must be interpreted in terms of "Let us have Christ."  We shall find God's unmerited favor and working in our lives from no other source.

    "Heavenly Father, all grace and truth exists in Your beloved Son, and our beloved Savior.  In this and in every day, reveal Him more and more to our hearts and minds as we open Your Word, as we pray, as we relate to people, and as live our lives in the light of Christ.  We confess how easily distracted we are from this Source and Sustenance of all things, and we ask Your forgiveness for so often diverting our gaze from "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."  We believe Him to be the Fount of Your abounding grace.  As a Biblical voice of old once cried, however, "Help Thou my unbelief!" 

    We seek Your grace, Father, and thus, we seek Your Christ, the Lord of grace.  We trust You to work in us to fix our gaze upon Him, and we choose to do so anew and afresh in this moment, and in this day.  Thank You so much for so great a salvation, as provided by so great a Savior.  Christ only, Christ always, Christ forever!  This is Your devotion and determination, blessed Father, and we join You in the glory of the Son of Your love, and in the Savior of ours... In His name we pray, Amen."

"His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell."
(Colossians 1:14-19) 

Weekly Memory Verse
   The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God.
(Hebrews 7:19)