Friday, May 30, 2014

"Swans" Part 7

       "If I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in my, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:16-18).

   The Apostle Paul's confession of sin's origin in his flesh constitutes one of the most intriguing and illuminating proclamations in Scripture.  

   First, Paul declares sin to be that which he really doesn't desire - "I would not."  Our ongoing proclivity to distrust and disobey God resides not in the "I" that constitutes our redeemed spiritual personhood in Christ.  Therein, Paul declared, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," and "with the mind, I myself serve the law of God" (Romans 7:22; 25).  In the flesh, however, that is, in the earthly faculties and members inherited from Adam, a "law of sin" remains - "the flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17).

    If we sin, we walk after this part of our being that no longer comprises who we most deeply are - "ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:9).  Note Paul's chronological confirmation of this truth - "it is no more (longer) I that do it."  Once it was, the Apostle implies.  Before salvation, sin proceeded from Paul's Christless self, as dominated by unrighteousness.  After the new birth, however, sin no longer originated in the "inward man" or the "I myself" of Paul's Christ-regenerated and indwelt person.  "With the flesh, [I serve] the law of sin" (Romans 7:25).  Thus, Paul could accurately state that if he sinned, "it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me… that is, in my flesh."

   This did not absolve Paul - or ourselves - of responsibility for sin.  We freely determine whether to walk after the newness of life in our spiritual selves, or the law of sin in our members.  However, the Scriptures make clear the importance of our understanding the origin of obedience and disobedience in the components of our being.  If we believe ourselves to still be the sin-dominated servants of unrighteousness we were before faith in Christ, we will live out our unbelief.  Moreover, we will always have an excuse for our sins.  Believing and submitting to Paul's plainly-state affirmations of our new life and person in Christ as the truth of who we most deeply are establishes the strong basis for godliness upon which we must stand.   A "no excuses Christianity" emerges from such grace, even as the Lord Jesus declared, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48).

   We will never live as swans so long as we still perceive ourselves to be ugly ducklings.  More to the point, we will never consistently walk in God's truth if we do not know and subsequently choose to believe it.  The New Testament proclaims a new man, a new creature, and newness of life regarding those who trust in Christ.  A rich experience of the presence and working of our Lord awaits as we realize and affirm that who we are in Him is not who we were without Him.

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse

    Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:5-6)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Swans" Part 6

    Many years ago, I shared the truths of this series with a gentlemen who struggled with a number of attitudinal and behavioral challenges regarding his walk with the Lord.  He responded, honestly, but in forlorn despair, "That all sounds good, Glen.  But I know me!"

   Actually, he didn't.  The gentleman rather knew his flesh.  He did not, however, know the new person birthed and spiritually constituted when he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The New Testament loses all meaning if we fail to see that salvation accomplishes far more than merely providing forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.

   "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 615).

   As the Apostle Paul taught that our earthly members and faculties present an ongoing challenge in our walk with the Lord - "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing"  (Romans 7:18).  A very good thing, however, dwells in the "new creature" of our born again spirits - "ye are the temple of God... the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (I Corinthians 3:16).  Moreover, this spiritual life and being in Christ constitutes the holy essence of who we most deeply are as God's trusting sons and daughters - "ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you" (Romans 8:9).  To know our "me" therefore demands that we view ourselves in Biblical terms rather than the historical, emotional, and apparent realities that may define many of our doings, but which often do not reflect our being.

   Faith in the Lord Jesus births a spiritual "me" - "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).  United to the Holy Spirit, the person we most deeply are exists as a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).  This is the "me" we must know, as commanded by Scripture.  In our present earthly lives, we do not always think, feel, speak, act, and relate accordingly.  However, nothing changes the grace-given new and spiritual person that constitutes now and forevermore who we are in Christ.  "Ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18).

    Until the swan gazed into the mirrored waters, he perceived himself as the ugly duckling of his past.  He thus lived accordingly.  In similar manner, if we fail to look into God's glass, we will not see the new creature He birthed when we trusted in Christ.  We will thus live as we did.  We must know our me, as united to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  Thereby are we equipped to more consistently overcome the law of sin that remains in our flesh.  Yes, "I know me!" must become a joyful affirmation of Biblical truth rather than a mournful confession of carnal feeling and failure.  The glory and will of God are at stake in this vital matter of truth, and of the grace that freely grants the "newness of life" in Christ that changes the very essence of who we are (Romans 6:4).

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse

    Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:5-6)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Swans" Part 5

    Few truths more challenge born again believers to live up to our spiritual inheritance in Christ than the Apostle Paul's challenge that we view ourselves in the light and image of God's glory.

   "Beholding as in a glass the glory of God, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).

   We might suppose that Paul's reference to a glass involves a window whereby we look outward and away to glory.  This is the not, however, the meaning of the original Greek from which the word glass originates.  "Katoptrizo" means mirror.  Thus, the Apostle commands that we look upon our own reflection to behold the glory of the Lord in order to more and more transformed into His spiritual and moral likeness.  Our initial reaction might be that a gaze into God's mirror would more appropriately reflect an ugly duckling than a swan.  Scripture nonetheless calls us to reckon ourselves in the affirmative terms of being "alive unto God," while acknowledging the fact that we presently possess the ongoing fleshly potential for sin (Romans 6:11; see Part 3 of this series).

   The key to understanding Paul's command lies in his epistle to the Colossians, wherein he references the gracious gift of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  Herein we discover that our Lord's salvation constitutes us as the dwelling place of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  We must never view ourselves as just ourselves, but rather as ourselves spiritually united to Christ.  Indeed, failure to see ourselves accordingly inevitably sets us up for failure to live accordingly.  We walk in darkness if we think of ourselves in the forlorn and lonely terms of being the same empty vessels we were before we believed.  We are rather ourselves as inhabited by the Holy Spirit.  Gazing into God's mirror thus reveals the wonder of a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" because Christ dwells with and within us (Ephesians 2:24).  The degree to which we discover, grow, and avail ourselves of the power of such truth by faith will largely determine the quality of our Christian experience.

  Such truth presents us with the greatest challenge of our lives.  Namely, we have no excuse for failure to walk in consistent and growing faithfulness to God.  The image in the mirror commands and demands that we view ourselves as supercharged vessels of righteousness.  Christ constitutes the power and enabling for such ability, but we are the scene in which such Divine might resides.  If we sin, we oppose ourselves by walking after the law of sin in our flesh rather than "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" that indwells and pervades the person we are in Him - "ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you (Romans 8:2; 9).   Every excuse fades into oblivion in the light of this grace-given newness of life and being in Christ.  We are swans.  Such truth calls us to live accordingly - "if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

(Ephesians 3:20-21; emphasis added)

Weekly Memory Verse

    Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:5-6)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Swans" Part 4

    In his epistle to Philemon, the Apostle Paul challenges Philemon the slave owner to receive his escaped slave Onesimus back "not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved."  Paul had encountered Onesimus in prison, leading him to faith in Christ, even as he had previously led Philemon to trust the Lord Jesus (Philemon 1:10; 16; 19).

   Paul's intercession for Onesimus involved a great challenge to Philemon in the culture of his day.  Slavery existed as an accepted institution in Roman, Jewish, and Christian cultures.  Strict laws governed the practice, particularly involving the matter of wayward slaves.  Philemon would have been within his legal rights to have received his property back with great harshness and even brutality.   Paul appeals for Onesimus to Philemon's "better angel," as it were, namely, to the fact of who and what dwelled in Philemon because of his relationship with God.

   "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication (joint participation and fellowship) of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus" (Philemon 1:4-6).

   Paul calls Philemon to the monumental act of loving fellowship with Onesimus by encouraging and challenging the remembrance of "every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."  The Apostle appeals to the character qualities of Christ that dwelled in his brother through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  In essence, Paul challenges Philemon to an act of loving obedience to God, but only after he illuminates and encourages his brother to the truth of who he was in Christ, and who Christ was in him.  In terms of our current consideration, he beseeches Philemon to gaze into the mirror of God's truth in order to discover the swan he was (as opposed to the fleshly ugly duckling of his natural, earthly instincts).

   We know that Philemon responded positively to Paul's request.  In his epistle to the Colossians, the Apostle references Onesimus as a fellow worker in the Gospel, an office that could not have existed had Philemon received Onesimus as a slave rather than a brother (Colossians 4:9).  Thus, Paul's counsel regarding "every good thing which is is in you in Christ Jesus" became the basis upon which Philemon walked accordingly.  The same dynamic of truth exists for us.  As we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," we more and more discover the power that dwells in us for faithfulness and obedience.  God's promise and provision always precede His commands.  The order must never be reversed in our thinking, or in our practice of working out the salvation God first works within us (Philippians 2:12-13).

   We do well to encourage each other and ourselves with the truth of "every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."  Thereby we discover ourselves to be capable - through Christ - of monumental acts of trusting and obeying God.  Long ago, a slaveholder and his slave became brothers through Christ.  Moreover, they lived accordingly and provide for us an ancient account of the reality that enables us in our day to soar as the swans we discover ourselves to be in Christ…

"His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue."

(II Peter 1:3).

Weekly Memory Verse

    Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:5-6)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dear Orange Moon Friends

Dear Friends: at the link below, you'll find a video we produced several years ago as a tribute to those who who served and sacrificed to ensure the freedom and sanctity of our nation.  On this Memorial Day, I thought you might be interested.  Thanks, Glen.

The video is the first one, at the top of the page, although it's title, "To the Fallen", does not appear until you hit the start button (you may also have to wait a few seconds for the video to completely load).

"Swans" Part 3

    The believer's self perception provides one of the more interesting and important subjects in Scripture.  In simple terms, should we view ourselves positively or negatively?

   The answer is both.  The Apostle Paul pointedly addresses this dichotomy of spiritual perspective in his epistles, particularly in Romans.

   "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:22-25).

   Note the "delight" Paul affirms regarding the law of God in his "inward man."  Moreover, he confesses the same service "with the mind I myself."  Clearly, a part of Paul, the very heart of the man in Christ, seeks the glory and will of God.  Paul, however, does not fail to acknowledge the abiding presence of "the law of sin which is in my members," or the fact that with his flesh he serves the law of sin.  Thus, the Apostle viewed his inward man, or "I myself" in positive terms (based upon his union therein with the Spirit of Christ).  In contrast, Paul perceived his flesh and earthly members in the negative terms of an ongoing potential for sin.

    A careful reading of the preceding sixth chapter of Romans reveals that all believers must view themselves according to this dichotomy.  United with the Spirit of Christ in our innermost being, we must "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).  However, Paul also warns us to "let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body" (Romans 6:12).   Note again the same conflicting components, as referenced in Romans 7: "yourselves" and "the mortal body."  The former passed through death and into resurrection in Christ; the latter continues to possess the potential for sin to reign.  Thus, we must strongly affirm the positive reality in Christ that our deepest and innermost delight flows with the current of the glory and will of God.  We must also acknowledge that a law of sin remains in our earthly members and faculties, which allowed to control us will always lead us to distrust and disobey our Lord.

   In our current consideration, we might suggest that born again believers are swans in the spirit, who possess the potential to continue as ugly ducklings if we walk after the flesh.  How vital it is that we recognize both aspects of our present constitution and existence.  The New Testament epistles certainly address this truth, and the more we align our thought and belief with their holy light, the more we will walk in a manner that reflects our holy being in Christ.  As Paul definitively affirms in his epistle to the Ephesians, we are the children of light.  However, we may not walk accordingly (Ephesians 5:8).  Both sensibilities must reside in the understanding of believers, and thus, both a positive and negative view of ourselves equips us to a more consistent life of faithfulness to God.

"The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other."

(Galatians 5:17)

Weekly Memory Verse

    Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:5-6)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Swans" Part 2

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may certainly act at times as if we are ugly ducklings, as it were, rather than swans.  However, our waywardness does not change the fact of the "new creatures" we are in our spiritual union with our Savior (II Corinthians 5:17).

   "Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11).

   Note to whom the Apostle Paul addresses his strong affirmation of cleansing, sanctification, and justification: the same Corinthians he indicts as "yet carnal" (I Corinthians 3:3).  Clearly, believers can think, speak, act, and relate in complete opposition to who we are in Christ.  According to His purposes, God allows a "law of sin" in our earthly members and faculties to remain during our present lives (Romans 7:22-25).  Left to itself, our flesh will thus elicit the unbelief and disobedience that may cause others and even ourselves to perceive that we are the same slave to sin we were before we trusted the Lord Jesus.

   But are we?  The Biblical answer, resoundingly, is that we are not.  

    "When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Romans 6:20-22).

     In the past tense, Paul unequivocally declares believers to no longer be servants of sin.  In the present tense, he proclaims that we are servants to God.  In no way does the Apostle mean by this that Christians no longer sin.  If we do, however, we sin as an aberration rather than as an attribute.  

   The New Testament epistles not only stress the most important question of our existence, namely, who is God?  They also address the fact of who we are in relationship to Him.  Scripture commands our reckoning, or our accounting about ourselves truths that may not always manifest themselves in our internal and external actions.  They remain true nonetheless because a vital difference exists between who we most deeply are, and the earthly vessels in which we live.  We may still live as ugly ducklings.  If so, a primary reason is that we do not know, we forget, or we fail to affirm the swans we are through Christ.  In the children's tale of Hans Christian Andersen, the swan discovered who he had become by gazing upon himself in the mirrored waters of a garden stream.  Intriguingly, the Bible calls God's trusting children in Christ to a similar gaze, with far more wondrous results…

"Beholding as in a glass (mirror) the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

(II Corinthians 3:18)

Weekly Memory Verse

    The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

(Psalm 24:1)



     While God's being and doings always perfectly align, the same is not true of His trusting children in our present earthly existence.

    "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

    We are children of light.  However, we do not always walk accordingly (as confirmed by the necessity of a Biblical commandment to encourage such behavior).  Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ reconstitutes our innermost being through the entrance of the indwelling Holy Spirit: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).  The "all things" referenced by the Apostle Paul clearly involve the "who" of our spiritual being and identity rather than the "what" of our doings.  We are new creatures within, but our fleshly, earthly components presently remain without.  Thus, we may still think, believe, speak, act, and relate in accordance with the humanity inherited from Adam rather than the spiritual being birthed through Christ.

   Paul's command to the Ephesians basically states, "Be in mode and manner of life who you are in the Spirit and truth of Christ."  The challenge we face is that we still often feel and appear to be who we were before our new birth.  We may, to borrow from Hans Christian Anderson, be swans who still act as if we are ugly ducklings.  For example, the Apostle strongly affirms the Corinthians' relationship with God as the epistle opens (I Corinthians 1:4-9).  However, he quickly raises serious attitudinal and behavioral issues, ultimately indicting the Corinthians: "Are ye not yet carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).  Their doing did not flow from their being, but rather from their flesh.  They were not being who they were as they walked in darkness despite the grace-given newness of being God's "children of light."

  Throughout the epistles, the Bible affirms the being of born again believers, while encouraging and challenging a corollary walk that faithfully reflects the truth that we are God's sons and daughters.  Recognizing the difference between being and doing, as taught in Scripture, greatly helps us in proper interpretation.  Thereby we also grow in a subsequent life that increasingly results in our "What" revealing our "Who."   We must know and affirm the swans we are in Christ if we are to overcome our native tendency to think of ourselves as the ugly ducklings who "passed away" in Christ...

"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

(Romans 6:9-11)

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

(Galatians 5:25)

Weekly Memory Verse

    The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

(Psalm 24:1)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"The Same Image"

   Immediately after meeting and responding to the Lord's command to leave his homeland, Abraham (then known as Abram) builds altars of confirmation and consecration to God (Genesis 12:1-8).

    Famine drove him into Egypt, however, where in fear for his life, he lies about Sarah (then known as Sarai) his wife, declaring her to be his sister (Genesis 12:9-20).  Exposure and trouble ensue, leading Abraham back to the first altar he built, and to a renewed calling unto the Lord (Genesis 13:1-4).  Subsequently, strife occurs between Abraham's herdsmen and those of his nephew Lot.  Abraham thus unselfishly offers to Lot the choice of the land: "Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee?  Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Genesis 13:8-9).

    Note the difference between the self-centered fearfulness concerning the matter of Sarah, and the unselfishness expressed in the offer to Lot.  What accounts for the change in Abraham's character and behavior?  The Apostle Paul answers the question in his second epistle to the Corinthians:

    "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).

    Fellowship and communication with God leads to likeness with Him.  The more we prayerfully approach Him in His Word and relate to Him in the opportunities for faith and obedience that life affords, the more we think, speak, act, and relate in conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Early in his experience with God, Abraham acted like, well, like Abraham.  Further communion with his Lord, however, elicited the change whereby Abraham began to be "changed into the same image" of God.

   The same process occurs in the lives of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The more we humbly, faithfully, and submissively relate to our Heavenly Father through the merits of His Son and the enabling of His Spirit, the more He conforms us to the image of the Lord Jesus.  The process is ongoing in this life, and growth will be required.  Setbacks will also occur, but as we return to our altar, as it were, our Father works out His sublime purpose of revealing the love of Christ in us.

   Any supposed relationship with God or experience of Him that does not progressively make us more like Him fails to meet the test of spiritual authenticity.  Again, the process involves growth rather than perfection in this life.  We must nevertheless seek and expect progress, the progress of grace whereby God makes us like Himself by drawing us to a life of fellowship with Himself.  He could give to us no greater gift, and we glorify Him in no greater way as we more and more bear "the same image."

"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."

(Romans 8:29)

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."

(I John 3:2)

Weekly Memory Verse

    The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

(Psalm 24:1)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"His Heart, His Hand"

   God's character guides His capacities, or we might also say, His heart governs His hand.

   "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).

   The Psalmist reveals that our Lord's ways and works flow from His righteousness and holiness.  His being determines His doing.  The Apostle Paul amplifies this truth in the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians:

   "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).

   Eloquence, foreknowledge, intelligence, knowledge, faith, power, and even acts of extreme self sacrifice mean nothing if not guided, motivated, and enabled by the character of charitable love.  This is true in us, and were it possible for God to be anything other than who He is, it would be true in Him also.  Thankfully, "God is love," and thus His actions always proceed from the unselfish nature and disposition of His winsome being (I John 4:8).  In God, therefore, character (who He is) precedes and supersedes capacity (what He can do).

   Few truths should more lead us to grateful praise and thanksgiving.  Indeed, if God's primary attributes involved His ability rather than His character, we could never be certain of His motivations, purposes, and actions.  He would rather be like Satan, a being of great power (as given and allowed by God), whose character of self-centeredness results in horrific ways and actions.  This is not the case, of course, and we may rest our hearts in the eternally unchanging reality that God will always be who He is, and thus will always act in the pristine perfection that expresses the glory of His perfect heart and mind.  "I am the Lord.  I change not" (Malachi 3:6).

  As David repeatedly commands in Psalm 107, we "we praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men."  Note the order: first, His goodness, and then, His wonderful works.  The sequence must never be reversed, whether in our understanding or in our communication of the Biblical truth of being, and then doing.  God's heart governs His hand.  His character guides His capacities.  Who He is determines what He does.  Yes, we do well to rejoice in this glory of Divine holiness, and to kneel even in this moment to offer grateful adoration, praise, and thanksgiving for the doings of our Lord that forever originate in His glorious Being.

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name?  What shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."

(Exodus 3:13-14)

Weekly Memory Verse

   The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

(Psalm 24:1)

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Adventures In God" Conclusion

   As referenced in the introduction to these messages, we must be careful to properly define the term "adventure."  Both joyous purpose and challenging difficulty comprise the  determination to walk by faith in a fallen realm.

   "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).

    Note the interesting correlation made by the Lord Jesus Christ regarding peace: tribulation; good cheer; His overcoming.  In our present existence, a life of genuine tranquility of heart - as defined and enabled by God - involves the presence of trouble rather than its absence.  Indeed, our Heavenly Father would save us in our difficulties before saving us from them.  Tribulation comes.  We usually experience the normal "bad cheer" human reaction, as it were, to trouble.  The Spirit of God and the Word of God then remind, encourage, and challenge us to trust and submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father.  We make the choice to rejoice rather than sink into our initial fleshly reaction, thus leading to the deep inner peace of Christ that can be known in all things.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).  We thus discover and experience the Lord Jesus as peace, in contrast to the worldly version that requires pleasant and tranquil circumstance and situation.

   This is adventure, the "adventures in God" that comprise the reason for which our hearts were made and born again.  No blessing and no challenge compares with this ongoing opportunity to join our Lord in overcoming the challenges of a fallen world.  "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).  We are only truly alive (experientially) when accepting life in these Christ-filled terms.  "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).  The way is not easy, but by definition, adventures never are.  It is, however, the way to true peace, the peace of the Lord Jesus.  We were made for Him, and for presently knowing Him in the furnaces and forges of the earth rather than the Heavenly perfections of our eternal future.  Thus, we do well to accept the fact that "in the world ye shall have much tribulation," and to realize that such a path of challenge paves our way to the realized peace of the Prince of peace.  Yes, the blessedness and tribulations of adventures in God usher our hearts to rest as we realize the opportunities to know and honor Him in such a time as this…

"Glorify ye the Lord in the fires."

(Isaiah 24:15)

Weekly Memory Verse

   The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

(Psalm 24:1)

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Adventures In God" Part 3

   In earthly terms, some naturally view the cup as half empty, some as half full.  A completely different sensibility governs the hearts of God's trusting sons and daughters in Christ.

   "My cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:5).

   A Biblical view of God and His Word, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, inevitably leads to a heart of hope, expectation, and the sense of life as an adventure of faith.  Thereby we honor Him with a demeanor and attitude that reflects our confidence that through Christ, empty tombs of victory follow in the wake of crosses and death.  Any lesser or other perspective casts aspersions on the Lord whom we purport to trust, but whose reputation we may malign by the implication of hopelessness.

   My natural human tendency tends to view the cup not merely as half empty, but as spilled, knocked off the table, and shattered in a thousand pieces.  Left to myself, I would consistently dishonor our Heavenly Father by a bleak and forlorn despondency that sees a cloud enshrouding every silver lining.  Thankfully, the Lord does not leave me to myself, but works to remind me that the tomb of the Lord Jesus remains empty, He continues to occupy His heavenly throne, and the Heavenly purposes of God march on amid the earthly challenges that will all eventually kneel before the Lordship of our Savior.  My Father's faithfulness thus reveals to me a cup that "runneth over" with His Light that "shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).

   A fallen world continually presents opportunity to decide how we will view reality, and thus whether we will glorify the risen Lord Jesus.  He has already overcome the greatest challenge ever presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil.  All others pale in comparison.  Expecting that God will apply the truth and power of His Son's resurrection to the particulars of our lives leads to the attitude of adventure that honors Him by our hope.  He will not disappoint such expectation, and we will bear witness to a cup that overflows with the risen life of Christ.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  And why art thou disquieted in me?  Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance... Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  And why art thou disquieted within me?  Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."

(Psalm 42:5; 11)

Tomorrow:  Conclusion - Adventure and Peace

Weekly Memory Verse

   All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.

(Matthew 11:27)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Adventures In God" Part 2

   In our relationship with God and experience of Him, we may miss much if we fail to expect much.

    "Let Thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee" (Psalm 33:22).  

   Our Heavenly Father's presence and working in our lives encompasses far more than we can fathom as He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will," and as "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28).  We cannot begin to know all of His grace and mercy as bestowed upon us in Christ.  We can likely know more than we do, however, and expectant hope regarding God's working in our lives opens our eyes and hearts to see "according as we hope in Thee."  Conversely, failure to believe that our Lord is present and active on our behalf may mean that we fail to account for glories that will fill our being with the Light of His life.  As Jacob declared at Bethel after beholding the angelic ladder, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16).

   Our Father may actually withhold activity on our behalf if we do not choose to expect such beneficence.  "Ye have not because ye ask not" (James 4:2).  Faith and hope are inseparable companions, along with the love of Christ that inspires and energizes both (I Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:6).  If we fail to consistently expect God, a severe deficit exists in our knowledge, understanding, and application of what it means to genuinely trust Him.  Thus, the Lord may allow us to experience the fruits of unbelief in order to reprove and correct our unbelief.  "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).

   Adventures in God require the confidence that He purposes to fill our lives with both the fact and the realization of His life.  Again, we cannot see all.  However, we can all likely know more than we do of our Lord's gracious working on our behalf.  Expectation leads to the realized experience of God as faith opens our eyes to Jacob's realization: "Surely the Lord is in this place!"  Let us fill our hearts with hope by exposing them to the Scriptures whereby "faith cometh" (Romans 10:17).  We shall not be disappointed, and a life of Christ-inspired anticipation will illuminate both our hearts and the hearts of those with whom we live…

"They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed."

(Psalm 34:5)

Tomorrow:  Hope and the glory of God.

Weekly Memory Verse

   All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.

(Matthew 11:27)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Adventures In God" Part 1

   "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5).

   King David knew the Lord well enough to understand that God provides the theme and context of our future (whether in the short term or the more distant days to come).  Thus, he affirmed a primary sensibility that characterizes a heart of faith, namely, the determination to expect God.  David believed in a dynamically present and involved Lord, thus preparing him to experience the great fact of our existence, namely, that "in Him, we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

    Such confidence constitutes life in terms of adventure.  The knowledge of our Father's involvement privileges and commissions us to consistently respond to the wondrous truth.  This is a primary reason we must consistently read the Bible.  Scripture prepares us to anticipate the Lord's loving presence and activity.  He loves us no less than the trusting saints about whom we read in the pages of the Old and New Testaments.  Nor did they possess more potential to anticipate and realize that we all are as fish that swim in the ocean that is God.  The Bible stimulates our capacity for expectation by fortifying us with confidence that our Lord is at hand with the presence, provision, power, and purposeful intention that gives life its true meaning.  Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

    God offers to us in this day the adventure of knowing, loving, trusting, obeying, and honoring Him, as experienced along the path of our particular lives and spheres of influence.  No greater blessing and no greater challenge presents itself to us.  Do we believe that such truth is, in fact, true?  Will we expect God?  The adventure awaits all who do and will.  May we join David in his holy anticipation, and in the prophet's similar determination of faith…

"I will look for Him."

(Isaiah 8:17)

Tomorrow:  "Expectation and Experience"

Weekly Memory Verse

   All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.

(Matthew 11:27)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Adventures In God" Introduction

   The indwelling and abiding presence of the Spirit of Christ in born again believers offers a life of ongoing adventure, and thus, of an enthusiasm and zest for living.

   "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

   Note that I suggest "adventure" rather than "excitement."  There is a difference, but the words may seem synonymous to some.  By adventure, I mean that we awaken to each new day with a reason to exist and to live, regardless of what our earthly circumstance or sensibility may involve.  The Apostle Paul provides such purpose in his first letter to the Corinthians:

    "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).

   No other intention and determination compares with a life lived from, into, and for the honor of our Maker and Redeemer.  Nor does any challenge offer as much opportunity to overcome adversity and adversaries.  Thus, joys and difficulties await all who build within their hearts the spiritual altar whereupon we sacrifice every purpose that is not the one Christ-glorifying reason for which God made and redeemed us.  "This one thing I do" declared Paul, a man who testified of a joy-filled heart in every venue and circumstance of life (Philippians 3:13; 2:17).

   We will consider this life of adventure in God over the next few days.  For now, allow me to suggest that the beginning of such experience involves the belief that this truth is, in fact, true.  Again, we must build the aforementioned heart altar, based upon the reasoned and determined choice to believe that "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).   Is the Lord Jesus who the Scriptures declare Him to be, namely, the One for whom our hearts were created?  Can He fill and fulfill us in any and all things, conditions, circumstances, and events?  Is He our very life?   Adventures in God begin when we offer upon the altar of our hearts the sacrifice of all others as the Life of our lives.  Only Christ truly and effectually occupies this holy office, and only He promises the present and everlasting fulfillment for which God made our hearts…

"He is thy life."

(Deuteronomy 30:20)

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple."

(Psalm 27:4)

Tomorrow: Expectation

Weekly Memory Verse

   All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.

(Matthew 11:27)

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Willing To Answer"

(I began writing this on Saturday, but because of the events mentioned, did not finish until this morning.)

   This is a red letter day in the Davis family.  Our youngest daughter Emmie graduates from college, as did our son Noah several weeks ago (following in their sister Marie's path, paved a number of years ago by her undergraduate and law degrees).  Thankfully, Noah and Emmie already have gainful employment in their respective fields (criminology and art).  I'd be remiss if I didn't also add that Emmie's beau Sheldon also graduates today with a degree in graphic design, and his friend and ours Matt receives his English degree as well.  Yes, a big  day!

   We all went to dinner several nights ago to celebrate their big week.  As we sat around the table, I looked at these young people with a great sense of gratitude and hope for their futures.  They live in challenging, difficult times, of course, and it's anyone's guess regarding the course of our nation.  I nevertheless have a great sense of hope for them, and even more, a great sense of responsibility in determining to consistently pray for them and be there for them in days to come.

   As I prayed for Noah, Emmie, Sheldon, and Matt this morning regarding their special day and their future, the thought occurred that the Lord to whom I pray is far more willing to answer my requests than I am to offer them.  Indeed true prayer begins in our Father's heart, proceeds to our own through the Holy Spirit's working to formulate our awareness of God's desires, and then culminates in our supplications and intercessions.   Prayer thus begins with the Lord's will, which is far more purposeful and intent than our own.  Remembering and affirming such truth motivates us to pray far more, and with far greater confidence and expectation.

   Few truths more move us to consistently and fervently make known our requests to the Lord.  He desires to answers our prayers more than we desire to have them answered.  We must seek to align ourselves with His will, of course, and we must realize that He works according to His purposes and timetable.  Nevertheless, the trusting sons and daughters of God in Christ can - and must - approach the throne of His grace with the aforementioned confidence and expectation.  Anything less besmirches our Father and His loving involvement in our lives.  We honor Him and consider Him rightly when we bow to pray with the sense that He loves to act in holy and determined response.  I'll think about this in the days to come as I pray for our graduates, and as I pray for all…

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?"

(Matthew 7:7-11)

"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us."

(I John 5:14)

Weekly Memory Verse

   All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.

(Matthew 11:27)